Born and raised in Southern California, the West Coast polo circuit was home sweet home. Through longtime connections in the tight knit polo community I had obtained a great job in polo management with many playing opportunities in low and medium goal polo in California. Though I was content and comfortable with the direction I was going an unexpected job offer changed my course for the upcoming year.
In the final months of the Santa Barbara season I received a phone call from Max Secunda, a stranger to me at the time. He offered me a job in Florida, managing, riding, and teaching at his barn with the possibility of several playing opportunities. I was a perfect job for a young female polo player, however, I initially had no interest in leaving the comfort and familiarity in California.
I mentioned the surprising offer to my friend and boss, Melanja Jones, Manager of Santa Barbara Polo & Raquet Club, seeking advice. Much to my dismay at the time, she was adamant that I took this opportunity to experience the Florida polo circuit. Melanja suggested it was time I left California, emphasizing the importance of making connections in the polo community outside of my home clubs. She pointed out that Florida offers opportunities for a woman in polo that I couldn’t necessarily receive by staying in California.
Trusting the advice of a woman in polo with aspirations and goals similar to mine, I accepted the job and headed east for the winter. I settled into my new position nicely, very happy with my circumstances, playing lots of polo and riding talented horses. In my first week in Florida my boss was chatting with a friend, the manager of the Pilot Polo Team. He recommended me for the position as the alternate for the sponsor during the 20 and 22 goal season.
Not long after, I was invited to play a practice and try out for the position. I had played high pressure games and important finals before, but no other chukkers were as important to me as stepping onto the field for the first time with 10 goal player Facundo Pieres to showcase myself for an opportunity I could never have dreamed of.
I was confident I had done my best and went back to work and continuing to ride and practice daily. A few weeks later I received the most exciting phone call of my life. Pilot Polo Team asked if I was interested in playing with them for the first game of the C.V. Whitney 22-goal tournament. My teammates were Facundo Pieres, Gonzalito Pieres, and Matias Gonzales. I eagerly accepted and impatiently awaited game day.
My learning experience began long before I got on the field. I started my morning on game day nervously sitting in the barn burning my tongue on bitter yerba mate with some of the best minds and talent in polo. I listened as Facundo and Gonzalito discussed a game plan more advanced than I had ever heard before. They gave me instructions and their expectations before we headed to the team tent. Their high expectations of what I could do on the field gave me confidence. They treated me like a true part of the team, someone that they could use on the field and count on during the game.
Every play on the field was a positive experience for me. I either made a good play and was rewarded or made a mistake that I could learn from. Each game my team’s expectations for me grew and my job became harder. However, as I adjusted to the speed of the polo I learned how to be quicker and execute plays better. I played desperate to receive the approval of my teammates, because I know it is not often a women would be chosen for this position. It was very important to me that I made it worth their while, for myself, for the team, and for the next female player being considered for an opportunity to play high goal.
Throughout this experience I thanked those who encouraged me to make this move in search of better polo and experiences. I certainly did not come to Florida with expectations of playing high goal polo, and I never imagined I would be playing high goal polo amongst the best players in the world, let alone during my first Florida season. I believe what I learned on and off the field in two weeks would have taken me years to learn at a lower level. I like to think I received this opportunity because of my skill sets, however I would have not gotten on the field without the influences of my trusted polo mentors that lead me here.