USCA Polo team open to new players
Many new college teams start off small and the USC Aiken Polo team is one example.
The three-player team is coached by Tiger Kneece, who started playing polo at age 10.
He decided to bring a polo team to USCA, so local students who want to play could go to a school closer to home. According to the U.S. Polo Association, USC Aiken is the only school with a polo team in the state of South Carolina. The nearest university with an intercollegiate USPA team is Emory in Atlanta, nearly 3 hours away. There are none in the other surrounding states, including North Carolina, Virginia, Tennessee and Alabama.
The USPA was organized to promote and improve the game, while providing rules and handicaps for tournaments, competitions and games. They also supervise the games to protect the safety of riders and mounts.
The intercollegiate program provides college teams in each division the chance to compete against other teams in a three-man format in polo.
Polo games are made up of riders on horseback, going back and forth either on a grassy field or in an arena. They hit a small hard or soft ball with mallets to the opposing team’s goal to score.
The teams play four chuckers, or rounds with a half time, usually changing out horse with the other team called a split.
Kneece said he instills horsemanship in his players by having them tack up their own horses for the game. This shows them the steps needed to prepare horses and also helps new players to get used to them if they do not have much experience.
After the game, every player is responsible for washing, feeding and checking the horse for issue that may have happened during the game. Then, their gear is carefully put away in the trailer until the next game.
Kneece said that by next season he hopes that there’s enough interest in the game and team to be able to start a women’s team. Anyone can join the men’s team, with or without experience.
New players will be taught the game of polo, the rules and even how to properly ride the horses.
The equestrian community in Aiken plays a big part in the town’s history. Whether it’s steeplechase, hunters, jumpers, dressage or polo, this tight knit community comes together to celebrate horses and their riders.