Polo Players Edition

SEP 2018

Polo Players' Edition is the official publication of the U.S. Polo Association. Dedicated to the sport of polo, it features player profiles, game strategy, horse care, playing tips, polo club news and tournament results.

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12 POLO P L A Y E R S E D I T I O N I N S T R U C T O R S F O R U M WITH MIGUEL NOVILLO ASTRADA CALM FOCUS iguel Novillo Astrada is known for his calm, cool demeanor on the polo field, even in some of the most competitive games. His focus helped elevate him to 10 goals (he is now 9). It has also helped him to conserve his horses when necessary. He says he learned to be calm after having disciplinary problems in school as a kid. "When I was little I had some conduct problems at school. Maybe I was the worst of my brothers, so then on the field when I was playing polo I had some disciplinary issues. I learned from when I was young I had to change," said Astrada. "And being that way mentally helped me a lot to keep my focus, which not only helped me improve my conduct, it has helped my game. "I watched other sports and learned from other top athletes that if I was going to be a good professional, I had to learn to be focused. It may look like I'm laid back but I'm really concentrating on what I am doing—on the game, the horse—and not worrying about the umpire, aggression from the other team or other things that happen on the field. It is something I have learned through the years." Astrada said he has learned a lot from different sports, especially tennis. "The mental part is 80 percent," he explained. "You see Roger [Federer], he doesn't waste any movement, any motion. He anticipates and makes the right moves and that is why he is still so competitive. He is always very consistent and mentally quiet and he has a big family like mine." He has also learned a lot from some of the polo greats he watched as a kid, including his father, Eduardo "Taio" Novillo Astrada, who reached a 9-goal handicap as an amateur player, and Gonzalo Pieres Sr. "My favorite player for many years was my father. He was the one who started me. He always tried 110 percent, had passion and taught us to work had on the field and never quit. That is the most important thing and is the base you have to have to be a good player," said Astrada. He still looks for advice from his dad when he is playing in Argentina or when his dad is visiting him in the U.S. "I always ask him what he thinks about the team and how we are playing and how he sees the horses. He has never been a professional [polo player] but he was 9 goals so he knows," he said. "It is one thing to watch the modern polo that we are playing now and the other thing is to play. When you play you can feel the difference but at the end of the day, basic things in polo haven't changed so many times it is good to go to him. He makes you go back to basics so it is a good starting point. We try to use him as much as possible." Astrada remembers Pieres being very well mounted and good at organizing his teams. "He won a lot and got a lot out of his teammates. Maybe he wasn't a superstar like [Adolfo] Cambiaso or [his son] Facundo [Pieres], but he was very well mounted and made the team work really well." He also watched Memo Gracida and the Heguys. "At the time, they were the stars and I learned a lot from them. I went to watch them every game and tried to learn how they rode, and got the best out of everyone there," Astrada explained. Two of Astrada's five children play polo—17-year-old daughter Mia and 11- year-old son Miki. Daughter's Tonia, Azul and Mora ride but don't play. He now teaches Mia and Miki the lessons he learned early on. "I teach them to concentrate on the game and not to think about anything else—just the game plan, and getting the best from the horses and teammates," he said. If he sees them getting rattled on the field he intervenes right away. "I try to stop them right away. That is not the way to get anything good. It is not only bad for people watching you, it's a bad image, but it also hurts your game. I try to make them understand that and they can lose a chukker or a game if they get upset and are not able to think about what they should be focusing on," he said. It is the same advice he would give to anyone playing the game. That laser focus came in handy when he made it to the semifinal and then the final of the East Coast Open in Greenwich, Connecticut, with Audi in 2015. He played three horses in both games, and the final was against the powerhouse home team, White Birch, Concentrate on your game, horses and teammates Miguel Novillo Astrada was MVP in the 2015 East Coast Open. CHICHI UBINA

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