Polo Players Edition

OCT 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.

Issue link: https://polo.epubxp.com/i/1029347

Contents of this Issue


Page 15 of 67

14 POLO P L A Y E R S E D I T I O N V I E W P O I N T S BY DANA FORTUGNO BLAME GAME ou lost the game. Is it the umpires' fault? Could it be the umpires' fault? I just read a great book on Navy Seals leadership and function ("Extreme Ownership" by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin) and it occurred to me that the principles they use, the ones that make them so successful, can easily be applied to polo. Polo, after all, is not unlike battle, in fact, it is a form of battle. Let's have a little fun first. When I leave the field after a game, I can hear the players on the losing side chatting about how it was the umpiring that cost them the game. Having played myself, I understand that feeling. The calls you didn't get make you feel cheated out of opportunities that could have been points on the scoreboard. I get it. Please, just for a few minutes, open your mind, quiet your ego and be honest and vulnerable for a few minutes ( I won't tell anyone ). First of all, are you playing the game smart? I mean, are you playing in harmony with how the game is being called today by the professional umpires? I see too many players riding for the foul, ending up with the ball but not taking the ball because they want the whistle or they can't get their mallet back from the appeal into position fast enough. One rule that has not changed is that the umpire may elect not to call certain fouls. What has changed is how we interpret that rule. Today, we use our training, experience and judgment to call only the fouls that have created a disadvantage to the team fouled, a real disadvantage. Of course, I am aware of the argument that every foul creates a disadvantage, but it's not true or practical. The umpires want to allow the players to decide the outcome of the game, not the umpiring. We only interject ourselves into the game to balance ill- gotten advantage and keep everyone safe, not to pick out each rule violation. Of course, I see that the opposing player crossed in front of you a little too much but he's gone and you have the ball and a reset on the delay of game clock, so play it. All too often, I just see the appeal and the mad face and no attempt at playing the ball, just an extended appeal and ride through the play with the mallet in the air. The umpires are trained to play the advantage. It's an advantage to give you the play, without the other team having opportunity to set up a defense, change horses, etc. So how do you play smart? It's simple—just play. Forget about the umpires, as if they are not there. If you get the ball, if you get fouled, play the ball, If you then lose it, go ahead and appeal. Some plays, of course, you have no chance at the ball, so go ahead and appeal but do it so you put yourself in a position to defend if there is no whistle. You can do this most of the time, that's all I'm saying. It won't happen all the time. There will be plays that you have to go for the foul and risk being out of position, but do that when the play is obvious and you have a good chance at the whistle and only then. In court, we 'go for the foul' when we object to an evidence rules violation. If we win the objection, the jury does not hear the evidence (good), but when we lose the objection, the jury hears the evidence and they pay more attention to it because they now know we didn't want them to hear it (double bad—worse than if we didn't object). My policy was to object if I had a 70 percent or better chance of winning the objection, otherwise I didn't want the risk of alerting the jury to that information. Make a foul policy and stick to it. For example, only risk going for the foul and being out of position if your chances are better than 50 percent that you'll get the whistle. Don't risk it on a marginal slight angle play. Playing this way will maximize your effectiveness and you will be in harmony with how today's game is called. Now that you are playing smart, we now need to know if you are taking responsibility for yourself, your horses and your team. This part comes from that book I was talking about. It's recent, and it was written by two Navy Seals who train other Navy Seals. Basically, because they have little room for error and they deal in life and death situations all the time, their model has to be effective and reliable. Blaming battlefield conditions (or the umpire) is useless to them, so they must control all they can and then perform under whatever conditions exist at the time. Their model is to take complete responsibility for yourself and your team. Keep the plan simple. Make sure all your teammates have everything they need to succeed. Make sure all your teammates understand their job, completely, and are capable of doing that job. Make sure communication is seamless and effective. That's it. You knew that, right? Not so fast. Let's look and see how this would translate into polo terms and then you tell me if you knew all that simple stuff. Are you taking extreme ownership of your team, including yourself? Answer these questions: •Did you or a teammate practice your penalty shots? Did you convert all of your Penalty 2s and 3s and at least Be the best version of yourself instead of making excuses

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