Behind the scenes of Polo Park Zürich: polo teacher Steve Thompson
As Polo Park Zürich is growing every year, it is important for the players have a various choice of teachers.
Polo manager Francisco Podesta is in charge of the beginners players and to inject the polo passion in their veins. Once the players have been breathing and living polo, PPZ offer them the possibility to train with various professionals in the club. Sometimes, PPZ invite Steve Thompson to join the team. From year to year, Steve is seeing his students evolving, thanks to the continuous teaching in the club. All teaching methods are different and good ways to learn. And in polo, learning is vital!
Steve Thompson is international renowned polo teacher. After many years teaching in Dubai, his skills took him to teach polo under the cerulean skies of the Caribbean. He’s also the author of the book: “How to look cool whilst playing polo”, for sale in our boutique.
“As a coach I am extremely privileged to be invited to teach at numerous clubs around the world. Having said that however, very often the invitation more often than not fills me with dread ! The glamorous and romantic idea of boarding a plane at someone else’s expense and being hosted at various clubs around globe is actually a far cry from the reality for an inbound coach. There is often huge pressure and expectation for me as a trainer to solve a multitude of problems in an unfamiliar environment. For the record the ‘wooden thing’ that I demonstrate the swing with, is called a mallet... it is not a wand and I am not Harry Potter !! As the old saying goes ‘you cannot buy skill’, you can only buy the knowledge with which to train essential techniques.
So, getting straight to the point of the article - impressions of a host Polo Club. In comparison to many of my previous encounters with host polo clubs Polo Park Zürich is nothing less than an absolute polo Nirvana. As a coach I am without doubt silently critical of everything that doesn’t appear to be right or correct. So having never once been to Switzerland, I accepted the invitation to visit PPZ from my home in glittering Dubai, and braced myself for what I was about to endure. I recall landing early in the morning rather sulkily from a night flight to be greeted by Francisco Podesta. The polo manager. Not a groom, not a driver, not some random friend of the owners, but the polo manager himself. This gesture, to me immediately laid the foundation as to why, when so many other polo enterprises and clubs had failed the PPZ was so successful and emerging as quite possibly the future and capital of polo in Europe. This very fact got me thinking as to why this club, offering much the same as other clubs was indeed truly successful.
A polo club is a monster cash sucking machine with an multitude of essential working parts. At face value you would be forgiven for thinking that all that is required to call oneself ‘a club’ is a field and some stables and somewhere for the ‘beautiful people’ to sit sipping their champagne watching the ‘superrich’ run up and down chasing and ultimately missing a ball! Without even delving into the huge cost of under-pitch drainage, specific grass types, daily maintenance and machinery just to maintain a polo pitch there is of course the keeping costs of the horses and all associated expenses. However a perfect pitch and a multitude of horses does not make a successful polo club. People, infrastructure, culture, work ethic, and an endless list of specific skill sets are what is required for a seriously successful club to survive and THIS is why PPZ is so extraordinarily successful. A husband and wife team with a huge passion, dedication and commitment to the sport and their club is the first of the essential elements to recognise. However from my observation it is their ability to remain humble to the sport itself when one could be forgiven in their position of ‘over indulging ‘. Coupled with this is their ability to recognised the real needs both within a polo structure and also and perhaps arguably more importantly the needs of non playing members and sponsors. The design and structure of the club house, its accommodation, stabling and positioning ensures that on arrival it literally wraps its arms around you and makes you feel immediately welcome. Sponsors are able to host valued guests regardless of weather conditions and Sébastien and Morgan are masters of ingenuity and innovation in the face adversity.
As an example this husband and wife teams foresight into the future of polo and their desire to attract international visiting players gave rise to some of the sexiest self contained apartments on par with a 5 star hotel and spa. An obvious requirement your may think until the fact reveal that only 6 clubs in the world offer suitable player accommodation ! As with any great theatrical stage production, which polo most certainly is, it is the working behind the scenes that keeps the show on the road. Always the un-sung hero’s are people who you will rarely see working the office and essential admin departments and coordination of the great ‘polo ship’. Clara Podesta, the wife of polo manager Francisco, ensures that operations are functioning perfectly on a daily basis during a long a gruelling season. I personally witnessed and marvelled at their capacity to work endless hours, never complaining and a real true deep rooted desire to make and keep this club the envy of many. As
if all of this wasn’t sufficient evidence as to why PPZ is the fastest growing polo growing polo club in Europe all that remains is to turn our attention to the clients, players guests and associates of the club itself.
I have personal experience of attending numerous clubs who appear to have got it right with spectacular club houses, endless pitches and a never ending string of beautiful horses for hire. And yet they struggle to make ends meet. In the main it’s often down to the atmosphere and the attendees who create it. Understandably it doesn’t take many negative unpleasant characters to put you off a second visit to a club or venue. So ultimately what makes a club successful is it’s client base.
I’m still not sure how - maybe it’s the nationality, maybe the home bred culture, maybe it’s the humility or camaraderie between players or just simply respect for the sport and for the facility for the effort that goes in behind the scenes. Likely a combination of all, but it is certainly so refreshing to see this club thrive and prosper for all the right reasons. In addition and perhaps most importantly of all my overriding impression Polo Park Zürich is the genuine nature and compassion towards the horses. It is unfortunate that polo can attract individuals purely wanting to take up a ‘sport’ rather than an equestrian activity - so I was so genuinely impressed that what I witnessed from my very first visit was that the club is founded on a client base of genuine horse lovers.
I think it is significant that The Polo Park Zürich seem oblivious to the fact that they are quietly making history and the combined effort of all involved should be as proud as I am to be associated. I am tempted to end this article by wishing them luck.... but they have proved... don’t need it !”
The book of Steve Thompson can be purchased on amazon or on https://www.performance-polo.com/library