As the head instructor for the United States Polo Association's Polo Development program, Elizabeth Holson is spending most of her time on the road.
January 13, 2015

“I spent five days at home in July,” she said. “We did 70 clinics last year. We did five clinics over one weekend.”

The “we” includes Holson and her group of contract instructors who crisscross the country doing clinics in arenas and on the turf on behalf of the USPA. “We have a map of the United States and we color in a state every time we do a clinic there,” she said.

“We’ve been from Hawaii to Maine and from Spokane, Wash., to Florida,” she explained, adding that selecting the instructor to go to Hawaii for a 10-day clinic was not an easy decision. Every one of the clinicians believed they were the perfect fit for that assignment, she said.

Indiana has now been filled in after Holson left her home in Aiken, S.C., to do a three-day clinic at Culver Academies on Jan. 9-11. It also happened to be part of the worst week for snow and cold this winter. But that didn’t phase her. “It’s OK,” she said. “I grew up in Vermont.”

Elizabeth Holson

Elizabeth Holson

Since the Culver polo program “is so incredibly established,” Holson wanted to focus strictly on individual player development. That meant running individual drills on Friday evening, doing a combination of individual drills and team scrimmages on Saturday, and playing competitive chukkers on Sunday with the emphasis on using the techniques practiced during the previous two sessions.

During Sunday’s chukkers, Culver polo coaches Frank Stubblefield and Savannah Kranich played with the CMA and CGA junior varsity players when they squared off against their respective varsities. Having an experienced player can help reinforce to the younger players the lessons learned during the drills, Holson explained.

Holson is familiar with Culver. “I’ve known about it for years. It’s such a strong program.” She also worked with CMA players Eduardo Margalef ’17 (Aurora, Ill.) and Robson Macartney ’17 (Bentonville, Ark.) over the summer, helping Margalef qualify for a national spotlight tournament. So when Stubblefield called, she knew she wanted to come.

Individual player development is the main focus of USPA Polo Development. Now a separate arm of the USPA, it has taken over the intercollegiate and interscholastic programs for that reason, Holson said. Because the best way to sustain the game, she added, is to develop the talents of the younger players.

“It’s so much fun,” Holson said of the clinics. Since she helped rejuvenate the development program in 2013, instructors have gone from doing 20 clinics a year, to 70 in 2014, and 2015’s goal is to do more than 80. “I get to see so many cool clubs. I want to try coloring in all the states on the map.”

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