Newport Polo Experience
By Justin Powers
The Newport polo season in full swing
The Newport International Polo Series is in its 25th season, and while I have heard many things about Newport it remained one of those Polo “bucket list” items I needed to experience firsthand. At the annual Polo Development LLC Instructors Managers Forum in Houston, TX last fall the Polo Development team invited Dan and Agnes Keating to present to the group about the Polo Experience they have built at Newport (last year bringing in thousands of spectators over the course of their season) and provide advice to instructors and managers from across the country on how they could build their own polo experience.
The Keating’s knocked the presentation out of the park and the attendees were blown away that a small field featuring 2-4 goal polo could produce such results. During a break in the Forum, I was chatting with Dan and I mentioned he should have a Pittsburgh team come up and play; those that know me know that I am an avid supporter of the Black and Gold, and those that don’t know me should know that Pittsburgh is the greatest city in the world and tends to have a very loyal following!!
A month or so had passed, and Dan reached out to me and asked if I was serious about bringing a Pittsburgh team up. I told him I needed a day or two to canvas some players and I would get back to him. Within a few phone calls we were set to go with a Pittsburgh squad consisting of:
- Nick Barry who my dad taught to play polo in his early teens and then went on to work/ live with us in the summer times for many years while I was growing up. I spent a considerable amount of time with Nick when I was a youth and now that he lives and works in NYC I enjoy trips to the city where we chat about polo, current events, and of course the Pittsburgh Steelers (My first ever Steelers tickets were provided to me and my dad by Nick’s family).
- Mike Groubert who is a member of our Darlington Polo Club. A two goal player, he and his wife are school teachers so they are always down for a trip in the summer time. Mike worked for my dad growing up; we have made a lot of road trips together. Mike also is an illustration contributor to the Certified Polo Instructor Program
- Myself and my dad, Mark Powers (who agreed to play not knowing how far a trip it was or when; As long as you can drive horses there and its fun my dad will go play).
- Yaz Grontik who is a local player from Myopia, but attended Penn State for college (not Pitt but we won’t hold that against him). Yaz and his polo compadre CJ Brown made the trip down to play a few chukkars and loaned me a horse. Like my dad, Mike, and Nick- Yaz and CJ are great guys in the sport of polo and always willing to help create a polo experience.
L to R: Nick Barry, Mike Groubert, Mark Powers, Justin Powers, Yaz Grotnik
So after corralling a critical mass of players, I told Dan we were in and to put Pittsburgh on the schedule. The date of our match was July 16th and unfortunately my sister had a friend’s wedding that weekend and was unable to attend (Ironically, Dan and Agnes’ daughter Minnie and my sister attended a CPI Instructors Skilz Clinic at Haviland Hollow the weekend before and during their study sessions of the CPI Polo Manual Minnie did her best sales pitch to get my sister to skip the wedding and come play at Newport. She may not admit it, but I think Juliette would have liked to skip the wedding and made the trip. There’s always more weddings, but a fun weekend polo trip is a memory that lasts a lifetime).
We arrived in Newport the Friday before the match and were guests of honor at a BBQ hosted at the home of Sam and Ann Clemens. Sam is the Chief Product Officer for a software company in Boston (Ironically, one of my childhood friends who was coming to the match the next day works for him, small world). Sam and I quickly began talking about Polo Skilz and the content on the site. Sam is newer to polo and said he has religiously watched every video on Polo Skilz to improve his game. It was great to connect with Sam and I look forward to picking his brain about the site and its approach to helping new players in the sport. As part of this Blog I asked Sam to list his 3 favorite videos on the site:
- Owen Rinehart: Drill: Dribble Hitting http://poloskilz.com/drill-dribble-hitting/
- Sugar Erskine: The Fastest Way to Get Better http://poloskilz.com/the-fastest-way-to-get-better/
- Julio Arellano: Playing #1 http://poloskilz.com/playing-1-2/
I travel across the country and have been to more polo clubs and events than I care to list. Historically when someone says that a thousand people attended a polo match its probably closer to 500. Dan told me that there could be anywhere from 3,000-5,000 spectators. After seeing it first hand, I think that may have been an under estimate. It was a great game, with very few whistles and great pace to the play, and at the end we did a lap around the field giving high fives to polo enthusiasts of all ages. After autographing dozens of polo balls, answering some questions about the sport, yelling “Here we go Steelers Here we go” to a bunch of Tom Brady fans, and a great trophy presentation that included a surprise champagne shower- it was time to relax, kick the horses out and share a Dark and Stormy with a bunch of new friends that share this addiction with us.
It was a heck of a Polo Experience as a player and, equally as important, a great feeling to be part of a show that brought the power and beauty of the sport of polo to thousands of spectators.