The Polo Training Foundation was officially launched on January 20, 1967. Northrup R. Knox, William T. Ylvisaker, and C. Heath Manning were named President, Vice President, and Secretary Treasurer respectively.
The PTF was founded to teach the game of polo to "young men" by promoting youth clinics, interscholastic and intercollegiate competition, good sportsmanship and good will through friendly competition. (Little did the founders realize that just a few short years later the women's movement would also strive to bring equality to the polo world.)
Impetus for the founding was provided by a gift of approximately 28 acres of land on Long Island in Old Westbury N. Y. from the Barker Welfare Foundation. The land was given to the PTF contingent on the following:
At least one polo game would be played on the field annually.
The land could only be used for polo.
No structures could be erected on the property.
If the PTF did not meet the above obligations during the lifetimes of Charles & Katherine Barker Hickox and their four children the land would revert to the Barker Welfare Foundation.
THE EARLY YEARS
The PTF had begun to accomplish its mission by the second Annual meeting in October 1968. Clinics were offered at seven member clubs as well as at Cornell, Yale, and the Southern Arizona School for Boys. Instructors included an impressive line up: Dr. William R. Linfoot, Terence Q. Preece, Dan Wallace, Col. James R. Spurrier, Robert Skene and Tony Veen.
Construction had begun on the Long Island Hickox Fields financed through a lease arrangement with the Meadowbrook Polo Club that continues to this day. Among the problems facing the PTF were how to reach the U.S. Pony Club membership and encourage them to use their own ponies in polo. The other issue the PTF struggled with in 1968 was umpire training. Umpire schools were offered at the end of each polo school but attendance was poor. For the ten years, umpire instruction was a major focus of the PTF and it continued to gain strength. There is in place now an umpire instructional “ladder”, beginning at the bottom with the rank beginner and climbing to the top rung, to the USPA® AA-rated professional umpire. The 1968 meeting concluded that the PTF was well under way although sufficient revenue was not realized to add a full time instructor. It wasn’t until 1986 that a half-time instructor could be hired and, in 1991 a full time instructor was finally employed.
Through the 1970’s contributions to the PTF hovered between $5,000 and $12,000 annually, yet by 1977 the PTF had accumulated around $32,000 and begun an investment account. Because of limited funds the PTF was constrained throughout the seventies and early eighties to conducting a handful of clinics across the nation.
THE DEVELOPMENT PERIOD 1981-1996
Contributions began to grow in the eighties to an annual level in the high $30,000’s and then under the leadership of PTF Chair George Haas, took a huge jump of an additional $20,000-$25,000 annually when the check-off system was instituted through the USPA® membership renewal. USPA® members when paying their annual dues, were encouraged to donate an additional $25.00 for the Polo Training Foundation. These additional funds enabled the PTF to expand their programs and in 1986 Danny Scheraga was hired as a Director of Intercollegiate and Interscholastic Polo. Since that time the Intercollegiate program has more than doubled and the Interscholastic program has almost quadrupled. In 1991 the Founders’ goal of having a full time instructor was finally realized when Scheraga was hired full time as Field Director to teach player and umpire clinics in the summer and direct the Intercollegiate and Interscholastic program in the winter.
During the eighties the PTF was involved in the development of three projects that would
have a major impact on American Polo: the annual summer polo school at the University of Virginia, the evolution of the Polo Museum and Hall of Fame, and the umpire training program.
The PTF was an original sponsor and partner on the development of a summer polo school at the Virginia Polo Center in Charlottesville, Virginia. The PTF remained a partner until their initial investment was recouped when it was determined that their financial aid would no longer be necessary. A young instructor named Rege Ludwig was hired to teach this clinic. Using this clinic as a springboard, Ludwig has become world famous for his polo teaching and coaching abilities. The PTF camp conducted at Brushy Creek Ranch in Burleson, Texas from the mid 90’s through 2010 evolved from this model.
The second project in which the PTF was an early partner evolved into the Polo Museum and Hall of Fame. This organization actually began as a Hall of Fame Committee within the Polo Training Foundation. When enough contributions had been accumulated to start the museum it was determined that the museum mission was separate from the training mission and the Polo Museum and Hall of Fame formed their own entity. Now there will forever be a museum to document the history of the sport.
The third major focus in this period was umpire training financed primarily by PTF benefactor Carlton Beal. Beal, working with PTF Chair George Alexander, was responsible for the USPA® Blue Book Rules Video and the beginning of umpire training with a goal of creating a core of professional umpires. The umpire program continues to grow as the PTF strives to help with the training necessary to make the game a safer more enjoyable sport at all levels.
THE GROWTH PERIOD 1996 - 2002
Under the leadership of PTF Chair Dan Colhoun, Jr., the Executive Committee went to Sheridan Wyoming during the summer of 1996 to discuss the future of the Polo Training Foundation. The committee decided that major funding would be required if the PTF were to grow. The Executive Board engaged the services of Jim Ridenour of Marts & Lundy, a fund raising consulting firm, to determine if this would be possible.
Ridenour discovered that polo players had no idea of what the PTF really did but that they would be willing to support polo training if goals and objectives were clearly outlined. He further recommended that the PTF hire an Executive Director whose duties would be split equally between fund raising and program management.
The Board decided to implement Ridenour’s recommendations. Danny Scheraga was hired as Executive Director. Wilbur O’Ferrall and Chris Blythe were hired as Field Directors. This growth allowed the PTF to expand its programs, many of which became major factors in the growth of the sport These included hiring Brushy Creek Field director Cissie Jones, Head Umpire Instructor Steve Lane and would lead to more expansion in the modern period. Cissie was charged with the development of the new PTF School at Brushy Creek Ranch in Burleson, Texas which became a major summer center for the youth of American polo. Steve Lane was hired as Head Umpire Instructor, and the million dollar “Guardians of the Game” campaign was kicked off with a matching grant from the Oxley Foundation to endow the position.
One of professional management’s main functions is to assist and encourage the volunteers necessary to make the program grow. Expanding on the example of her late husband Carlton, Mrs. Keleen Beal led the charge in getting people excited about supporting the growth of polo playing and umpiring. Her $1,000,000 donated over a four year period along with a $1,000,000 in gifts and pledges from PTF Chair Jesse Upchurch and the matching grant from the Oxley Foundation have inspired many polo enthusiasts to join the cause.
THE MODERN PERIOD 2002-2010
Exciting developments have occurred since the publishing of our 35th Anniversary Report in 2002. The “Guardians of the Game” campaign was successfully completed and the Head Umpire Instructor position is fully endowed. In 2005 a new position of Program Field Director was created and Kris Bowman was hired six months a year to fill that position. In 2007 Cissie Jones resigned and Robin duToit-Sanchez ably took over the management of Brushy Creek.
As a result of conclusions and developments in a long term strategic planning process conducted by the United States Polo Association, the PTF and the USPA began conducting joint venture conferences to better define their separate yet symbiotic missions. The basic conclusion of the first conference was that PTF was responsible for training and that USPA was responsible for standards such as umpire ratings and handicaps. This conference has given both organizations direction to help increase USPA membership by developing learning centers at strategic locations across the continent.
PTF also revived the Instructors and Trainers seminars. Instructors and Trainers gathered annually at Brushy Creek Ranch to exchange ideas on teaching techniques and other facets of growing polo including marketing polo schools, legal and insurance issues and general polo school development. The USPA Polo Development Initiative Committee strongly urged recipients of their training grants to attend these seminars. The 2007 seminar had 29 attendees.
Steve Lane workedclosely with the USPA helping them to identify umpires who can be certified when he and his independent contract instructors conduct umpire schools and clinics. In addition, the PTF also joined with the USPA and the Eldorado Polo Club to provide the opportunity for Steve to spend the winter season at one of the nation’s largest winter clubs working with their corps of umpires and umpiring. Umpire, youth, and players clinics were taught annually throughout the PTF’s existence rising to a peak of over forty annual clinics at polo clubs across the continent reaching close to 800 students. Between clinics, camps and the I/I program the PTF touched nearly 1500 people annually.
Current & Future Projects
In 2010, since Kris Bowman’s job was really about club development she became a USPA employee. In 2012, The PTF agreed to continue funding the Head Umpire Instructor position currently held by Steve Lane, but he would become an employee of the new Umpire LLC formed by the USPA. Similarly Youth Instructor Wilbur O’Ferrall, funded by the PTF moved over to the USPA.
This frees the PTF to concentrate on new programs geared to help grow the future of polo including :
A scholarship program provides academic assistance for students who are members of their collegiate polo program.
The PTF continues to teach junior and youth clinics, with the fourth annual Virginia Interscholastic Clinic scheduled for 2015 as well as various clinics around the country
The PTF is promoting youth international exchange programs, taking teams to New Zealand and England and hosting both countries. A fall International Junior/Youth tournament is in the early planning stages.
The PTF continues to run the Florida Junior and Youth polo tournaments with over 200 participants. The PTF sponsored Eldorado Junior Polo has over 30 participants
The Mack Jason Leadership project purpose is to keep intercollegiate alumni in touch with polo while encouraging them to find careers other than polo and to play polo as an avocation. This is crucial for the survival of the sport.
The PTF continues to annually recognize both the male and female Intercollegiate and Interscholastic Players of the Year, an award recognizing playing ability, horsemanship, leadership and sportsmanship.
The PTF also annually recognizes an Umpire of the Year, and when appropriate Arena and regional umpires.
The PTF has developed a College Fair to bring college applicants and coaches together in one place to exchange information about various collegiate programs
The PTF has built an impeccable reputation of helping to train polo players while ethically managing its financial obligations. To maintain active strong programs the polo public needs to believe and participate in those programs through volunteerism and with the tax deductible financial support. This develops public ownership in those programs and a strong desire to see them continued. The PTF will continue to strive to help the future of polo in America and will work hand in hand with any entity that shares those common goals.
Chairman Dick Riemenschneider with our current officers Tony Coppola, Gillian Johnston, Melissa Ganzi, the rest of our Board of Directors, and a cadre of volunteers across the nation, continue to tirelessly volunteer their time and expertise to further “the future of polo in America”.The Polo Training Foundation was officially launched on January 20, 1967. Northrup R. Knox, William T. Ylvisaker, and C. Heath Manning were named President, Vice President, and Secretary Treasurer respectively.