Sophomore Matthew Collins was recently chosen to join the elite ranks of the United States Polo Association (USPA), the national governing body for the sport of polo in the U.S.  
Polo, one of the oldest sports in the world, is played on horseback and involves the cooperation of four individuals per team. The goal of the game is to score points on the opposing team using long-handled mallets. 

Collins, who grew up on a farm in Maine, spent much of his time as a boy learning how to ride on the fields where he lived. 

“I always rode, growing up on my farm and riding on the trail roads,” said Collins. “Then I began taking polo lessons at one of the schools in the area. After that, I joined the Baltimore Boys Polo Club, where I started playing on the high school team, and it just took off from there.” 

According to Collins, polo is a difficult sport to get into. Playing requires the individual not only to be able to ride with proficiency, but is also capable of handling the massive costs associated with the breeding and upkeep of polo ponies. 

“I got lucky, because with indoor polo, you don’t have to own your own horse,” Collins said.  “You just go to the barn, pay some money, and then play on the interscholastic teams where the horses are provided for you. And when I started outdoor polo, where you are required to have your own horse, I was able to buy a few for cheap from a guy who was just getting out of polo.” 

Polo players are ranked on a system of handicap, which ranges from negative two all the way to 10. However, less than a third of the world’s polo players have handicaps greater than two; professional players average around a five. 

“I’ve been playing since I was about eleven, but more seriously over the past couple years,” he said. “It takes a while to get good, and I still have so much more to learn. Right now, I’ve got a handicap of one which is pretty good for my age group, but the professionals, the best-of-the-best will have handicaps of 10.” 

Now a member of the USPA, Collins will enjoy a number of benefits that will allow him to become even better at polo. Not only will he be playing with the best in the country, but he will also be coached by previous 10-handicap players. 

“They bring us down to all of these different clinics and then expose you to the best American professionals so you can bring your game up to the next level,” Collins said. “It’s a great way to get into a higher level of polo.”

This past weekend, Collins was coached by both Adam Snow, a current eight-handicap player, and Owen Rineheart, who formerly had a handicap of 10. 

Thus far, Collins mostly participated only at the high-school and regional levels of polo, and has earned a number of awards at that level. 

“I was a three-time all-star at the regional level, and I was the number two national all-star my senior year,” said Collins. “And, this past summer, I was MVP at two minor competitions.” 

However, Collins voiced his intention to take polo beyond the interscholastic and regional levels, and to begin playing on a more competitive field. Fortunately, his newfound USPA membership will help him achieve this goal. 

“This summer I’ll be traveling to Wyoming to play, and there I’ll be starting to play at some higher level tournaments, and so this summer will be my chance to break into the professional scene,” said Collins.