Personal problems can have a way of creeping onto the polo field and into your head, but professionals routinely whack those troubles over the sideboards and carry on. Even so, some emotional jolts are just too much for almost anyone to cope with and continue playing effectively. For example, your favorite pony suffers a catastrophic injury; or during halftime you find a frantic text that there is an emergency at home; or your team’s best player has a bad fall and is rushed to the emergency room.
You may remember the horrible fall Facundo Pieres took in the 2017 Hurlingham Open final, when he lay motionless on the ground for what felt to anyone who saw it a frighteningly long time. The game was stopped while medics got him off the field and to the hospital.
Can you imagine the emotional angst that must have swallowed his Ellerstina teammate Polito Pieres, who now had to “be Facundo” for the rest of that game, not knowing if his cousin would recover? Polito held it together despite being deeply distraught. With his team down 9-8, he took over as the scoring machine, promptly making five consecutive goals and ending the day with 11 goals. Ellerstina won the final 16-14.
Not everyone can get through an emotional wallop like Polito did, but sports psychologists say you have to try to eliminate the distraction. When something upsetting happens, says Miranda Banks, a sports psychologist who has worked with polo players. “It is essential for a player to refocus on playing, or else he becomes the next possible tragedy. A player without focus in a game like polo is a danger to himself and to anyone else on the field.”
Banks says refocusing is the key to getting back into the play. She has found these methods effective for polo players of all levels.
ADVICE FROM MIRANDA BANKS
ABOUT THE EXPERT: Miranda Banks is a performance psychologist who has worked for many years in professional and elite amateur sport. Her clientele includes high-goal polo teams and individual polo players. She is based now in the UK, but continues to work extensively with sports and corporate clients around the world. www.mirandabanks.com
Photography: Horseplay Productions