By Hezzy Benson ’26
I’m Sebastian Komaritsky and I’m a sophomore. I’ve been riding horses since I was 8 years old, but I started playing polo when I turned 12. I’ve been a member of the Yale Polo Club since then and have played on their middle school team (winning the Northeast Regional Tournament). This year I made it onto the Varsity Open team. An “Open” team means that both girls and boys can play on the same team and that is one of the things I really like about polo.
Describe your experience making it to the U.S. Polo Association National Tournament
The U.S. Polo Association (USPA) has an interscholastic (high school) section and an intercollegiate (college) section. Only varsity teams compete to go to a national tournament. This year it was held at Brookshire Polo Club in Houston, Texas. The country is divided into regions and the winners of each region compete at nationals. For us, this meant winning the Northeast Region. Since it was in Texas, we weren’t able to take our club horses and had to ride the host horses. That’s always a challenge because you never know what you’ll get.
How would you explain polo to a Gunn citizen who isn’t familiar with the game?
Polo is fast, I love the feeling of flying on a horse after a ball. Polo is a very old sport that originated in Persia, but the modern sport was spread around the world by England. Argentina is known for being the leader in polo and my mom grew up there. That’s how I was introduced to polo.
There are two types of polo in the U.S.: Arena polo and outdoor polo. The USPA organizes interscholastic and intercollegiate arena polo. This is polo that is played inside a walled area with dirt playing ground. There are 3 players during a “chukker” which is like a “period” of 7.5 minutes. In interscholastic arena polo, one game is 4 chukkers. But it’s very fast and physical with strong polo horses. There is a soft ball that is hit with a mallet made of bamboo and wood. Arena polo is played in the fall and winter.
Outdoor polo is my favorite. It’s played on a huge grass field which is 300 acres by 150 acres (which is like 9 football fields) Four players play 7.5 minute chukkers. The number of chukkers is largely decided depending on the level of players. Typically it will be 6-8 chukkers.
All polo players receive a handicap ranking by the USPA (or in their country). Polo players are ranked from -2 to 10. Currently there are only 9 players with a 10 handicap!!!
How far do you think polo can take you in your life? What lessons do you believe that polo teaches?
This summer I will be doing an internship at Trafalgar Polo Club in Sotogrande, Spain. I’ll be there for two months working with the marketing team and assisting the grooming team and playing a lot of polo! The great thing about polo is that it’s a lifelong sport like tennis or golf. Just like girls and boys can play on the same team, people of all ages play together.
As for lessons from polo: it’s a team sport and not just with your teammates, but also with your horses. Taking care of your horses, communicating with your horses and extending yourself beyond what you thought you could do is always part of polo. You have to love horses and adrenaline. Practice, focus and patience are always things I’m thinking about. Up next will be the early summer season at Farmington Polo Club that brings some great Argentine players. Locally, you can also see the Greenwich Polo Club Northeast Open which always draws several 10 handicap players.