This year I was the captain of the Cambridge University Polo team during the Varsity match at Guards Polo Club.
While I was selected for the team in 2020 during my MPhil in Biology at Cambridge University, the Varsity match was cancelled at that time, due to Covid. I moved from Clare College during my MPhil to Peterhouse, partly because Peterhouse has been very generous with financially supporting sport; and our Peterhouse Fellows even made the trek to watch the Varsity match. The college system at Cambridge offers an opportunity for unique pastoral care and I cannot say enough about Peterhouse; even the Master of Peterhouse commented about my match at a graduate formal dinner we shared.
Cambridge is a special place, two of the things that made it most attractive to me are the college system and sports.
In the US, graduate students do not get to play for their universities (with some red shirt exceptions which are particularly confusing), and they are siloed into just interacting with their cohort. My twin sister is completing an MBA in the US and she cannot play polo for her university, even though it was where we both completed our undergraduate studies, and she also only interacts with other MBA students, as the cohort only has opportunities socially to meet other MBAs. I contemplated attending a school in the US, but the draw of wearing a light blue jersey that said Cambridge was too strong.
Polo has been a life long passion of mine starting from when my father founded the Skidmore College polo team in the 1970s. I played for the Cornell University Varsity team from 2010-2014, for 4 years, as an undergraduate, our highest ranking was #2 in the United States. In 2011, I played at the Milwaukee Polo Club and worked with Tom Goodspeed, a 9 goal arena handicap professional player, coach of the Southern Methodist University polo team, and administrative member of the United State Polo Association. I credit my passion for polo and subsequent successes to this great player and coach, and it was my great honour to learn from him.
In 2012 and 2013, I was a player for Hawk Hill, Buena Vista, and Deerfield Hill polo at Mashomack polo clubs. I won the 4 goal tournament, was runner up in the Eduardo Moore 8 goal tournament, and consolation winner of the 12 goal tournament. In 2014, I accompanied the Skidmore College alumni team to Oxford, UK, and won our match at Kirtlington Park Polo Club. While conducting research at the University of Connecticut, I taught polo lessons at the Shallowbrook Equestrian Center.
Polo is an interesting sport because nearly every person in the sport is a nomadic horse trainer, with very few players at the top giving the sport a specific image. To really see behind the curtain, I suggest reading “Crossing the Line” by Kareem Rosser, a friend of mine from childhood.
In many ways Cambridge makes polo very accessible. Students are encouraged to take lessons at a local club that is only a 10 minute bike from the centre of town. These lessons are subsidised and relatively affordable. Once students learn to play they are given a club rating of beginner, novice, intermediate, and so on, and then when games are played against other schools there is the opportunity, for example, for the Cambridge beginner team to play the Oxford beginner team. This does not happen in sports in the US, where members are either asked to dress for a game or not, simply if they are considered the strongest players. I really appreciate Cambridge’s approach and that is why, each year, there are over 60 members of the Cambridge University Polo Club and many of the players that learned to play here, continue on to play the rest of their lives.
The day itself at the Guards Polo Club Varsity match was a beautiful one. We finally had a reprieve from the confines of UK lockdown to run at full speed, light blue against dark blue. While it was a hard fought match, in which we were evenly matched or considered an underdog (our team is a -2 handicap, Oxford has a 1 goal handicap; by the logic of polo they should have won by 3 goals), our team played calmly and cohesively, unfortunately missing the win.
We had many fans from Peterhouse College, Cambridge, as well as many from across our Cambridge Judge MBA cohort. I am happy to have had the experience and perhaps have the opportunity to wear a light blue jacket.