Science of the swing and strike by Professor Eduardo Amaya.
The strike is an important part of polo. It is one of the fundamental pillars of the sport, along with riding skills and game analysis.
In order to carry out a practical swing and an efficient strike we must understand the terms and the factors that make up the swing and the strike itself.
A good strike can only be achieved from a good swing. As Lord Mountbatten said, “The success of the strike depends on the perfection of the swing, which must be carried out at the right angle and with correct timing.” Both, of course, rely on good riding posture – the most important of such comes from the player’s support on the stirrups.
The swing, like in other sports, can be described as the balancing movement between the hips and the shoulders. It is the momentum of the ‘swinging’ corporal movement that allows for a greater strike while using less applied force. This is a result of coordination and appropriate use of torso and leg strength.
The platform (stirrups) essentially allows for the correct position of the half seat, shifted forward. The body moves forward over the pommel of the saddle (its highest part); the player is able to lean over the ball thanks to the support from the stirrups.
The phases of the swing occur in a continuous motion:
• Preparatory movement, or “pre-swing”
• Backwards movement towards the highest point of the swing, or “back swing”
• Descending movement, or “down swing”
• “Pre-contact” (wrist action)
• Finish, or “follow through”
Each one of these phases has to be executed in the correct manner. For the purpose of practice these can also be divided into three sub-phases: beginning, middle, end.
Timing, Power and Direction:
Timing: Starting the swing and developing it in the precise amount of time in order to then make contact with the ball at the correct place (momentum), calculating our distance – moving or not – as well as speed and rhythm of the horse.
Power: This will be determined by the speed at which we lower the mallet and strike the ball, considering we complete the phases of the swing correctly.
Direction: This will depend exclusively on the angle at which we develop the swing. Each strike has its appropriate angle.
Torque: Depending on the desired distance of the hit, the player will assess whether to carry out the twist of the hips and shoulders, and consequently, the spine. This is known as torque and is used mainly in long shots.
For shorter strikes the player will adopt a half seat position and not twist the hips and shoulders; these are short and precise strikes.