Breaking Bad Habits.
Do you sometimes say to yourself “I can’t do that shot” or “I really need to come and ride or stick and ball”? Being away from this sport for too long can be detrimental at all levels. Whether you are a pro or an amateur, a big pause or break in your polo can affect your coordination and confidence.
Most amateur polo players develop bad habits which they pick up from not playing regularly, and some are also stuck with the wrong technique. Taking a polo lesson is the most effective way of having analysis of your swing and riding, followed by correction. However, there are some self-help methods that can help you avoid developing the most common habits.
Possibly the most common habit for someone who has not played for a while, or is not playing regularly, is the overuse of arm power when hitting the ball. This is also the easiest bad habit to spot for an outsider. Fortunately, it is easy to correct. The key is to use your core to generate the power in your swing, and not get stuck in the habit of just swinging the arm. The best way to stop yourself from doing this when you get back into the saddle is to train and strengthen your core and practice the right way to do it, even when you are not playing regularly. This means that you will return stronger and not fall into the amateur trap.
Another thing that often plagues newcomers to the sport, or people returning to it, is finding their rhythm and using their legs to rise with the canter. This is easily trained and maintained off the horse by using a yoga ball to imitate the motion of the horse by following the rhythm of a song you like. This will not only keep your legs moving in the same way as riding a horse, but will also help you pick the rhythm back up quicker when you do ride.
Ball chasing is another bad habit. Polo is a lot more than hitting the ball; positioning, defence, attacking and marking are also important. Watching your own games, as well as footage from the high goal players, is a great way to understand all these different moves. When you get to play with your professional or other higher ranked players, it is always good to listen to what they say and pay attention to how they play.
It is important to practice anticipation. In any ball game, the ball will be going faster than you are so you have to anticipate it. In polo you are 25% of your team; in many other team sports there are a lot more team members around to correct your mistakes, so your speed of thought and anticipation are vital. You need to be aware of what every other person on the field is doing and intending to do. This changes second by second, so you need to update your information and game plan by looking around the field all the time, and sometimes throwing away the old plan and making a new one. In order to anticipate what is going to happen, you have to use your brain to visualize these things. Before a game, practice, or training session, picture yourself doing all the things high goalers do. Imagine hitting a great backhand, blocking a man, winning the throw-in, hooking, passing the ball, scoring goals, and of course, winning. This will mean you don’t get caught in the trap of becoming so engrossed in your own game that you don’t see the bigger picture.
Although it is hard for players who do not get the chance to play, ride and stick and ball regularly, there are plenty of things you can do to stop yourself from falling into bad habits when you do get the chance to play. This means you can make the most of your time playing and not waste the first two chukkas of a game getting back into the swing of things.