Can an Amateur Polo Player Improve and go up in Handicap

pep talks May 26, 2022

It is VERY possible, if you remember a few important things, to go up in handicap!

Here I give you a few tips on how to increase your handicap. They are tips that have worked for loads of people in the past that I have helped and I am confident that they can help you too.

Can an Amateur Polo player improve and go up in handicap?


Well, Hey gang, I'm really nice to be live again, chatting to you guys. The reason for today's live broadcast was we've been getting so many questions from you guys asking whether or not we think it's possible for you to really advance to the five, six goal level as amateur players.

Well, let me just first start off, because there will be people inside the Polo Tips & Training that don't know me.

So, just to introduce myself, my name is Gavin Chaplain. I'm a former seven goal, Professional polo player. Played a lot in Argentina with one of the best players in the world at the time, Eduardo Moore. And I worked for him for six years and really had great time with him and played in some awesome tournament's with him.

And when I stopped playing professionally and went back to South Africa, I played in the national team there, which I captained, and then coach that team for five years. And actually in that five years, we only ever lost one test match.

So, that is a little bit about me and my history. I grew up in a polo playing family. My dad was 8 goals, Mum was 4 goals. So, pretty much polo's in our blood.

So, just saying hi from a very warm Egypt, I'm ensconced to my office here, trying to run away from the heat. It's 42 degrees outside. You can hear the background, hum of the fans, keeping the horses cool behind me in this awesome stable block that you can see behind me. You can see the bags of shavings coming in and the horses are pampered and looked after beautifully here.

But just to get back to this question of, can you actually make it as an amateur player up into the higher echelons and the higher handicaps of polo? Well, I'm here to assure you that you can, but just to make it more obvious and to perhaps drive that point home a little bit. I wanted to just touch on the subject of self-confidence.

Because self-confidence is really the thing that will limit you in where you can get to. Now, I've been on both sides of that coin because I'm obviously being out there, trying to get chosen into a professional team. You have to trust yourself. And I have confidence in your ability. I mean, obviously at home, having selectors and, and trying to get into a national team, one has to have the self-confidence to do that as well.

So, I've been on that side of the coin. But I've also been on the side of the coin where I was the coach and having to try and instill that self-confidence into people that have been chosen in the national team. Because here's a really interesting thing.

You see these guys playing in their own teams, where they are the strongest player in the team, and their ability levels are unbelievable and they really play incredibly well.

And then they get chosen into a team where, they are now in a peer group that is either as good as them or better. And suddenly that self-confidence really knocks their ability to perform at their best. And I see it time, and time, and time again, where players have been chosen on merit and really deserved a place in that national team.

And you suddenly get them there and they're not performing as you saw them in the actual team they were playing in. And I spent a lot of time thinking about that. And obviously, as a coach of that team, trying to work out a way of instilling that self-confidence into them.

So, here's the thing guys, that, you know what, if you are going to go out there and you are going to dink around the field, and look for the ball all the time, and try and be better than the next man with the ball.

What you're doing is setting yourself up for disaster. And that's really at the end of the day for me, where your whole self-confidence is going to take such a knock.

But if you will go out there and do what I keep telling you to do and get man focused away from the ball, your confidence skyrockets in seconds, because, Hey man, if you've beaten a man off the ball, when you get to the ball, you own the ball. It's not now a case of am I better with the ball than he is.

And he's probably better with a ball than I am. And my self-confidence there takes a horrible knock. Where if, I've beaten him and I'm away from the ball, and when I get to the ball, I'll make a great play.

And I'm either off to goal and I'm waving goodbye to him. Bye-bye boy, I'll see you at goal, because I've already done the work, I've beaten him. That's where your self-confidence rockets.

So, two things when you go onto that field, okay, when you go onto the field, you are always going to have adrenaline pumping through your veins.

And if you will use that adrenaline. Because what happens is you see guys go out there and then the first chukka, they, they so full of adrenaline that they get to the ball, and a ball that they would normally hit very easily, they welly the thing with all their might only because they've got adrenaline coursing through the veins. And they miss the ball and that's another self-confidence knock.

So, if you will use that adrenaline to get man focused and get out there and do the job. Suddenly you're calm, the adrenaline abates in your body. You're thinking with a calm head. And playing with hot blood and a cold head as I keep saying, and you're beating the man all the time and your self-confidence absolutely skyrockets.

And that's where for me, is a starting point of really starting to get good and getting up through the ranks. But it all goes back, for me, to that man focus. And doing the job off the ball, because that's where all of your self-confidence is going to come back from.

So, yes, you know. Just before I go further because there's another lovely story I'd like to tell you. I would like to just give you a quick heads up and do a little bit of homework here, just to let you know that this coming Thursday the 15th, I'm going to be doing the first of three live training sessions at seven o'clock South African time.

And it's specifically designed for you guys in this group of the Polo Players, Tips & Training, to try and help you all become better players with little help here, and a little bit of help there.

And it's the little tweaks here and there that, I believe, are going to really help you become better polo players. So, if you have questions that you want to ask, and you want to know about a specific thing, or a specific point, rather.

I made a post this morning, and you need to go onto that post in Polo Players, Tips & Training, and give us your questions now so that I can read them, and prepare for them, and answer them properly, the best way that I can. So, just to let you know, that's coming next Thursday 15th at seven o'clock, South African time. And also just please, if you have questions, to go to today's post in Polo Players, Tips & Training, and send us your questions.

So, back to what I was talking about. You know, I have a very good friend, Guy Benson, we were neighbors, almost. And Guy was, is a very good polo player. But always just getting overlooked by the selectors and not quite making that national team.

And what happened was we had an Australian team come visit, and one of their team members got hurt. And then they reserve got ill, and they were looking for a player to come and fill in, to play in the team. And they came and asked me. And I said, man, this is the guy I'd choose because he really is worth a place in any team.

So, they spoke to Guy and he was beautifully mounted. And they decided to play with him and they put him at back. And guess what their advice was to him? Because he was playing with a six and a seven, and I think a two goal player, and himself on five goals.

The advice he was given was go get a man, and he first time backhands to us and leave the rest to us. So, always the man focus. Now imagine, he goes and plays, and really does well, and they beat the national team, which was a great feather in his cap.

But then a month later, I'm in Johannesburg watching him playing in a Whicksford team, which is a sponsored team, which was sponsored by a man called Jan Newman, who is now living in Cape town.

Jan was a great guy and a great sponsor and had a lovely team. And Guy was playing actually with some really nice guys in the team. But they got absolutely hammered and looked like complete and utter zombies on the field.

And I went to Guy and I said, what the heck is happening here? And he said, Gav, we just, we haven't won a game in the last 10 games. We just can't seem to get it together. And he said, do you think you could help us? And I said, sure I can. I've got today's game on video.

So, anyway, it ended up that we went that night to Jan's house and we sat, and in those days the old VCRs and huge cassettes and the huge cameras and all of that, but we set it up and we watched the game.

And you could just see it was all about the ball. And we just tweaked some stuff. And we, we talked about getting smarter on the field, owning the inside of the field, instead of always trying to get to the mallet side, all those little bits and pieces of real polo knowledge that you, you, if you haven't grown up with, you need to get hold of now.

And the biggest thing we changed was beat the man. Beat the man away from the ball. Well, what was really interesting was that in the next, in that year, they didn't get beaten again.

So, for all of you guys out there worrying about, can you get better as amateurs. Without a doubt, you can get better as amateurs. You can be as good as you want to be, but you have to do the work on the field, the correct work.

You have to go to a man and beat a man, because that will do the second thing that I'm talking about. And that is boost your self-confidence. And when you play with self-confidence you playing at the top of your game.

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