Polo Players Edition

FEB2019

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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62 POLO P L A Y E R S E D I T I O N to polo, while accompanying his cousin David, the Prince of Wales on a Royal World Tour. Then 21, he would play until the age of 54. There, Mountbatten said he "found three loves, though on three very differ- ent planes."—India, his wife Edwina … and the game of polo. The former Edward VIII later recalled, "[Mountbatten's] interest in the manifold problems of India was confined to that part of the country bounded by the white boards of polo fields." Ironically, Mount- batten became India's Last Viceroy and is credited with helping usher in their Inde- pendence. "I've gone completely dippy about polo, which in my opinion is the best game in the world," he wrote to his cousin Bertie, who would succeed Edward VIII as George VI when he abdi- cated. Though passionate, success for the eventual 5-handicap player did not come easily. A natural he was not. He wasn't a particular deft horseman, and admittedly did not have a good eye for ball games. He had to plug away to be respectably good, yet Mountbatten was hooked. "I have really for the first time in my life become keen about a game," Mount- batten wrote to his mother after an early match. "I'd sooner be good at polo than anything." In his diary he recalls his first match: "I spent the whole of the first chukker trying to learn my place in the field and never really got near the ball … In the last chukker, to my own immense surprise, I actually hit the ball three or four times." From that point forward Mountbatten was of a singular mind, to excel at polo. As biographer Brian Huey observed, "The pursuit of excellence was the guide- line he followed throughout his life … For him winning was all. He loved to exhort his crews in the Royal Navy, his polo teams, the soldiers under his com- mand, his staff, to better efforts with the words, 'Remember, there are no prizes for coming second.'" He took an equestrian course with the Royal Life Guards but sought to improve his polo skills with nowhere to turn. Mountbatten saw a void in then a pre- dominantly amateur game of the gentry. There were no professionals to teach him. "When I once asked a famous interna- tional for advice on hitting," Mountbat- ten remembered, "all he could say was: 'My dear Dickie, strike quickly! Strike like a snake!' A fat lot of good that was!" He took matters into his own hands. In typical Mountbatten fashion he saw a void and turned it into an opportunity. He made a scientific study of the game of polo, from top to bottom and practiced with the dogged determination and enthusiasm he brought to all pursuits. "I made a point of studying the game. I had slow-motion films made of English and American internationals, to analyze the shots … I used to practice hitting for hours on end, to obtain length and accu- racy … I worked out tactics with my team on the billiard table … for the benefit of people like myself, I wrote down all the lessons I had learned in very simple lan- guage." The result was the first, and definitive book on the fundamentals of polo. "An Introduction to Polo," whimsically writ- ten under the nom-de-plume "Marco," breaks down the game in scientific fash- ion for the beginning player. It teaches every aspect of the game in detailed fash- ion, with step-by-step exactitude. First published in 1931, it became a bestseller and was published for 50 years in several languages. He also published the seminal book on umpiring in 1934. The copyright and proceeds went to the Royal Navel Polo Association, which he helped to establish in 1929. "Polo is a marvelous game, because it combines so many skills: riding, of course, but you have to be particularly good, because of positioning the pony; then there is the thrill of hitting the ball at full speed—and you can hit a very long ball at polo," recalled Mountbatten in 1968. "But the greatest satisfaction is to play Albert, Duke of York (later King George VI) awards the Duke of York Cup to his cousin and captain of the victorious Navy team, Lord Louis Mountbatten, at Ranelagh in July, 1933. Mountbatten, second from left, and his team win the King of Spain's Cup at Malta. CHRONICLE /ALAMY STOCK PHOTO

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