Fixing the Nearside Backhand (Part 1)

polo swing technique & stickwork Jul 15, 2022

Is the Nearside Backhand YOUR Nemisis???

It seems to be the case for so many payer...

For both beginners and also for many players who have been playing for some time. I think there are 2 reasons why this shot is so difficult for so many people to Play:

1. Poor Technique, and...

2. Bad Preparation going into the shot Let's take a look at how we can fix this.

Fixing the Nearside Backhand-Part 1


The near side backhand seems to be the nemesis of many players, especially beginners, but also for players that have been playing for some time.

The reason, in my opinion, that this shot is so difficult for so many people to play, is poor technique and bad preparation going into the shot. If you sit in a normal riding position, going towards this shot, then as you play it, the swing of the mallet tends to feel like it's throwing you forward and catapulting you out of the saddle.

And also, you will see that because you were sitting in the saddle. What happens is, that, your hips are locked because of your seat in the saddle. Also, because you are riding in a forehand seat, what happens is, you had no leg to pivot around.

Your hand always start on the incorrect side of the horse. That hand should be starting just above your head. If you can imagine a halo running around your head in a vertical plane, that is where your hand is, and that is where the mallet should be swinging.

From here, you will see that the mallet has to travel across, to get into that area, before it starts the downswing. So, it always makes the mallet travel in this direction to the outside, and then back across the horse. This way, what you want to be doing is for that mallet to be running past your horses face and away in this direction.

So, for all these reasons, people really battle to hit this shot. Remember also, that unlike the offside backhand, one wants to hit this ball opposite the horses shoulder, not behind your stirrup.

You can see that in this swing, there's the mallet traveling across, out and back again. And the player concerned is stuck in his saddle. And you can see the mallet just making huge contact with the ground there, there's no swing. You can see the toe now pointing down.

There is no balance and support from a foot down here, that he can pivot around, and everything is a desperate clutch to stay on the horse. Let's have a look how to do it better.

This shot is so similar to the offside forehand. That one needs to take the principles of this offside forehand, and apply them to the backhand on the near side. You are able to pivot because you have a foot and leg to pivot around, so that your hips can pivot around that foot.

And you will see here, that as one executes that forehand, there is the pivot of the hips strongly around that supporting leg. So, let's have a look at that principle now on the nearside backhand.

There's a very good line from my sternum, through my knee, to my toe. And there is the support around that foot and leg. And you can see because of that, I am able to pivot. And if you look on the right-hand side, we'll see because of that, my right hip has been able to pivot through, enabling me to turn and follow through correctly.

Still balanced over my foot, so that the balance has stayed strong through the swing. If one looks on the left-hand pane. If one tucks this foot in, your whole feeling is that you are going to catapult as you swing, because  you have nothing to support you with.

My weight is very much on my big toe and on the inside of my foot, this anchors my foot in place, and stops it driving forward in the swing, resulting in a whole hip-leg-foot-line, like that, which again makes you fall backwards.

If you look on the right-hand side here. That even with that weight on that big toe, this foot is still wanting to drive forward. The important thing also, is that as you approach the ball, you are kicking your weight very strongly into that heel.

Because by kicking that weight into the heel, it slightly moves your foot away from the horse. Because then you have got a foot slightly outside your knee. And that is anchoring you back in the saddle and allowing you to pivot around that foot.

Take a look as I go in here. there you can see the weight kicking into the heel now. Which allows my upper torso to be in the correct position. You can see my hand here, reasonably close to the halo we were talking about. And my whole weight is anchored above this leg here.

And there you can see, as the swing happens, the mallet running on the halo as well. There is contact, and still support from that leg and a rotation of the hips there above that pose, because I'm not stuck to the saddle. Just one other point to make here, while we're talking about the nearside backhand.

As I said to you, it's almost identical to the offside forehand and the timing is also, almost identical. If you are late on this shot, it always makes it problematic to hit.

So, have a look at the timing. You saw the lesson on penalties the other day. There's the striking of the nearside fore, and the horse transferring its weight cross that.

That's the first stride. There's the preparation and upswing on the second stride, and the execution and contact as the horse is transferring it's weight across the foreleg, on the third stride. And you will see that contact is opposite the horse's shoulder.

Why do I think it's important to hit the ball opposite the horse's shoulder? You will recall that I told you, in a previous lesson, that contact with the ball in every sport is always opposite your sternum.

On your forehand, it's important to keep your face facing forward like this, because as you pivot backwards, if your face is facing forward, it anchors your sternum to face the ball. So, that through the swing, your sternum is always pointing at the ball.

So, on your nearside, if one slightly turns your toe open, as you will see in the left pane here. Then what it does, is it anchors your sternum to the ball so that your whole torso, knee, and toe are facing the ball. And if you make contact there, it is so much easier, than if you try and pivot and hit the ball back here.

Because the minute you do that, then you are collapsing back into the saddle. There you can see, in the follow through, that I am still perfectly balanced with sternum, knee and toe, pretty much in a vertical line there. Just to take you back to the start of the swing.

There you can see the weight into the heel in preparation. What I do is, I slide my body slightly through as I'm approaching the ball, so that my left butt cheek is slightly more on top of the saddle. And then, I put a lot of weight into that heel to anchor me into the swing.

There you can see the slide, now. It's not a big one, but it's enough to let you kick your weight into that heel, that you can see marked there. My torso's now slightly opened. The other good thing from this point is, that you can look backwards very easily to see who you need to hit the ball to.

If you're sitting in that forehand seat, you have no rear view vision. There now, you can see me transferring my weight into that left side very strongly.

Remember, I'm also holding very strongly with the right leg at this point as well. There's the sternum at the ball. The mallet coming down this side of the horses face.