You've done all the lessons, stick and balled your little heart out and now you are ready to progress to the next stage. Your first tournament.
Here is the low down on everything you need to know about playing in your first tournament....
First of all, tournaments aren't as scary as you think they are!!! Often when you are starting out, more experienced players are happy to guide you through, and even give you a chance to hit the ball. After all, they were beginners once themselves. If you're a little scared to go faster, you can often hang back and sometimes hit a ball that the faster players have missed straight through the goals. This happens all the time. So don't worry so much! Get out there and have a go!
What to wear:
You will need to wear whites ( white polo jeans), and a team shirt. The shirt is usually supplied by the team captain on the day. They have a list of the names on their team, and will find you before the match to give you your shirt. A safety approved polo helmet, polo boots and knee guards are essential. Optional extra safety gear includes safety googles, gloves and elbow pads.
What level do I compete in?
When you do your first tournament it will be in a "sub zero" match. This is for beginners that are under 0 goal. You will be put in a team with other players at a similar level and usually with 1 higher goal rated player that will help you along the way.
How many chukkas will I be doing?
You will do 8 chukkas over 2 days. 4 on the Saturday and 4 on the Sunday. If you would like to do less, you can find someone to go halves in a spot with you, and just do 2 chukkas each day.
Do I need to be a member of a club?
Yes, in order to play in a sanctioned tournament, you will need to be affiliated with your Polo Club and have a current, financial membership. At Windsor Polo Club where we are based, there are many different levels of membership to suit how much (or how little) you would like to play. It's a good idea to discuss these options with the Club's Secretary to ensure you get good value for money.
Do I need my own pony?
If you don't own your own pony, you can hire ponies from Riverlands Polo. Each pony can only do 2 chukkas in a match, so you will need at least 2 ponies to do the 4 chukkas.
What is the cost?
The ground fees need to be paid when you nominate yourself for a game. These costs also vary from Club to Club. Windsor Polo Club ground fees start at $176 for 'sub-zero' - this is for all 8 chukkas. If you choose to go halves with someone in a position, the cost will be halved between both of you.
How to book:
A club will usually display the nomination on their website & facebook page (as seen below), and send out an email to all registered players so they can follow the links and make their nomination and payment online.
How do I find out what team I'm on?
You will receive an email with a list of the teams the night before the tournament. This is called 'the draw'. The list will also include your duties for the day and times you are playing.
Each player is asked to do a duty on the day to help out with the tournament. Make sure you look at the duties column and check what time you are on.
Goal judging: to waive the flag when a goal is scored.
Centre table: to keep score of the games and time-keep.
Umpring: to ride around with the players, keep up with the play and ensure the rules are all followed and fouls are penalised.
3rd Man: to watch the game and assist the two umpires in the event that there is a conflicting decision.
Can I play tournaments at other clubs?
Yes, there are many tournaments advertised at the surrounding clubs during the year. If you would like to play in one of these, let us know. Chances are we will also be attending, and we can transport the ponies there. You do not have to join every club to play in their tournaments, but you will need to be a member of at least one of the clubs. Below are some of our Riverlands regulars competing in the Sydney Polo Gold Cup.
What is a round robin?
A round robin is when there is an uneven number of teams in a grade, so that three teams will all have to play eachother over the four chukkas to reach a result. It usually means that each team will play two chukkas with one team, and then two chukkas with another, so each team plays four chukkas usually in the following format for example:
Black vs White (2 chukkas)
White vs Blue (2 chukkas)
Black vs Blue (2 chukkas)
Can we make our own team?
Yes, if you want to nominate your own team, that is absolutely encouraged! If you want to play with a professional player, you should be prepared to pay your professional some fees for playing with you. You should also discuss with your 'pro' the tactics for the game and ask for some coaching throughout the game. You can discuss this arrangement with your pro and negotiate these terms.
The prizes for the winning team are presented at the end of finals day, which is the last day of the tournament (usually Sunday). So if you are in the winning team, you are asked to stick around for the presentation and team photo in your polo gear.
What is the pathway to progress to tournaments through
Once you have had a couple of private lessons at Riverlands, our coach will let you know when you are ready to progress to our Academy Group Lesson on Saturday's . This will be your first chance to play a chukka with other team mates, and you will be guided slowly through the game and the rules as you go.
The next step is our Academy Chukkas on Sunday's. This is 4 chukkas for intermediate to more advanced players. We can also sometimes fit a few more advanced beginners in this one, so put your hand up if you would ever like to try. This is faster than the Saturday chukka, but players are still guided by our coach.
You can then progress to Club Chukkas or your first Tournament. Club chukkas are played by club members on several days of the week, and weekends. Club chukkas don't have a sub zero level for beginners. However, when you nominate, you can write in the notes that you are a beginner. In some cases you may end up playing with higher goal players, but most players are very kind to beginners and will help you out. You will find out what team you are in the night before via email, and will be notified of what colour shirt to wear. We sell club chukka shirts at the club, so if you would like one, let us know. Nominations are done through the club's website.
DON'T FORGET TO READ THE RULE BOOK!!!
Here is the link to the very important, and very lonnnnnng rules of polo. Of course we go through a lot of these rules in our instructional chukkas, but this is definitely a must read. Players will also be required to sit the rules test before playing your first tournament. We have also done a couple of blog posts aimed at simplifying the rules of polo, with more to come in future posts.