Mike Carney explains the sport - and its appeal - at Terradyne Country Club.
For 40 years, Mike Carney has loved to play the game of polo.
Carney spent much of his time playing in Florida, but he also owns the Wichita Polo Club. Bob Moore of Davis-Moore had bought some property in Andover, which was turned into a polo field. Carney was the long-time president of the club before he stepped down and just made it a place where he could play.
Now, Carney is trying to spread his passion for the game to others. Carney visited Terradyne Country Club Friday to give a presentation of the game to local businessmen who showed interest in the game.
Carney compared the game of polo to hockey and to basketball. It has four riders per team. The field is 300 yards by 160 yards wide. There are six seven-minute periods. The goalposts are 24 feet wide. And the object of the game is to score more goals than the opponent.
Learning to ride horses is the key. Players ride their horses back and forth across the field while using mallets – which can only be held in players’ right hands – to hit the ball. Now, don’t think that riding horses means it isn’t a contact sport. There is plenty of bumping, hooking and running into riders, some of which are penalties, but some of which aren’t. The game actually can seem quite intimidating, but Carney insists that is just takes practice and isn’t a hard game to learn.
“Lots of riding, and then you just go out and hit a ball like a guy would go out and shoot baskets. Practice shooting a goal, practice all your shots,” he said about training for the sport. “(Players can) start from 8 years old to 50 years old.”
Polo admittedly isn’t as popular in America as it is in other countries. Carney said that several teams from countries such as South Africa, Brazil, England and Argentina–which he said is considered the Mecca of polo–have come through the Wichita Polo club. There are currently a dozen polo members in Wichita, and they’ve traveled to several places, including a recent trip to Des Moines, Iowa, for competition. The team also plans on competing in Haysville next month for the team’s next match. There could be a function through Terradyne to attend the match.
“I’d love to go watch,” said Tim Bishop, the president of the YMCA Men's Club.
Affording the horses is a big deterrent to the game’s popularity. The cost of owning a horse can range from $12,000 to $15,000. And players almost always need more than one horse. Polo games are long enough that players will substitute one horse for another, so it’s a necessity. Though it isn’t the most widely known or most accessible sport, Carney is confident people will be interested if they give it a try.
“It’s probably a combination of all of it. It might be an intimidation factor. It does take time and money if you want to have fun with it,” Carney said about the difficulties of getting into polo. “But it’s worth it.”
The game gives opportunities to people that they might not normally have. Polo is a great sport for those who want the fierce competition of any other sport, but maybe don’t have the physicality or conditioning to play other games.
Carney said that his club is looking to expand its tour of locations to play the game, possibly in Tulsa or Oklahoma City, which would provide more nearby places to play. Anyone interested in the game, the match next month will be free to attend and get a glimpse of the game of polo.
Those interested may learn more by going to www.wichitapolo.com.