While the mention of the sport "polo" may connote English country houses, aristocratic pleasantries and Ralph Lauren, a group of diehard polo enthusiasts is seeking to alter that image at Harvard.
So, after a lapse of five years, the Harvard Polo Club will return to campus, doing its best to convince undergraduates that polo is the sport of the people. "I fear very much that the elitist image will cause anger at Harvard," said Amir Farman-Farma '86, one of the cofounders of the new club. "But, we are attracted to the sport and its competitive spirit and discipline, divorced from any social connotations."
Despite Farman-Farma's dedication to avoiding the "elitist, clubby attitude" the people traditionally associate with polo, the fact remains that it is an expensive sport to play. According to club organizers, renting a horse for one hour costs $30, and players often need several fresh horses per match. Thus, the cost for each player can go above $100 for a single match.
According to officers at Yale's polo organization, which plays indoors (arena polo) rather than outside. Yale varsity players pay $800 per year, while junior varsity members pay $400. New players are charged $300.
Since it is Athletic Department policy to provide only the Harvard name to new clubs, the team can receive no money or equipment from the Department, said Floyd Wilson, director of intramural, recreational and club sports. Although the team is on its own this year, Wilson added that several other varsity teams--such as volleyball and water polo--did start out as clubs.
In light of these strenuous costs, it is not surprising that the most recent attempt to create a polo club at Harvard folded because of financial difficulties. The team incurred many debts which the university was forced to pay when the club failed, said Farman-Farma.
Organizers are hopeful for future success because of the favorable turnout at the club's first meeting. A fund raising dinner is in the planning stage and the club expects support from Harvard polo playing alumni.
Since Farman-Farma hopes to field an outdoor team of four seasoned, experienced players, he said that last Wednesday's meeting--which lured nine prospective members, including six experienced polo players--was encouraging. "We're looking to be the best," he said, adding that the club hopes to begin competing with schools such as Yale and Cornell in two weeks.
The club's first practice will be held on Saturday at the Myopia Hunt Club, a stable and sports facility in Hamilton, Mass., where the club will rent its horses. Peter F. Poor, a Myopia member and 20 year poto veteran, has agreed to coach the tem and provide intruction beginners once the team is established, said Farman-Farma.
Polo is who known for its violence: specially-trained horses dash into one another and often fall; mallets swung with impunity. Recent regulations have made the polo post, once a source of injury, more flexible and safer.
Farman-Farma said his uncle died in a polo accident but he remains enthusiastic about the sport. Poor said, "The danger attract people rather than scares them away."
"Polo originated in the Himalayas but became known as the sport of Persian kings," explained Charles L. Grandpierre '86, co-founder of the club and 1981 French National Champion. Farman-Farma added that it was common for Afghan of Pakistani tribes to play with animal skulls-needless to say those game were rough. When the British colonized the Middle East and India, they brought polo with them and made it the exclusive domain of the moneyed aristocracy, he said.
Marcin Moore '78, a former polo club member and now a Quncy House tutor, said that stigma on the sport may not be as strong as in used to be. "Harvard student this social climate, polo is not looked down upon as it was in the sixties."
Moore added that, in her rising boots used to attract dining hall.
Moore she raised the issue of Harvard's unique coed position in polo. Schools such as Yale, U.V.A., Army and Navy--the forces to be reckoned with in intercollegiate polo--have separate men's and women's teams. But, Farman-Farma said he intends to continue Harvard's sex-blind tradition.
Yale has had a polo program for over 50 years, said Timothy T.P. Robbins, a freshman member of the Yale polo tem. According to Robbins, Yale provides polo facilities while the team sponsors lavish fund-raising events in places such as Madision Square Garden and Palm Beach, Fla.
But, the Yale team will now be faced with renewed opposition from its traditional rival. Said Moore, "The more people understand polo, the more it will be viewed as a skilled sport and not an elitist club."