‘Polo runs in the family’ – NICK WILLIAMS

2 09 2008

Copy of Picture 034 This interview by Alberto Bullrich first appeared in Miradas del Sur magazine (now defunct) last year. But Nick and Ginnie have been in France this season, where Nick has been running a tournament about which we’ll bring you more as soon as they’re back.

Father, son, grandson and great-grandson of polo players, Nick Williams began playing in his native Argentina, though he never played a full game until age 10, at school in England. He was a member of the winning team for the Cowdray Gold Cup in 1976 and 1978. He was the polo school director at Santa María Polo Club for two years. His father, Jack, ran polo in Sotogrande since its beginnings in 1968 until 1980. Maybe that is why Nick and his wife, Ginnie, decided to settle in Jimena some four years ago.

 

Polo 1 leveled and cropped Sepia How did you start out with polo? It runs in the family; my father and grandfather played, so I suppose I never thought of doing anything else. I started stick-and-balling as a child in Argentina, but I didn’t really start playing until I went to school in England, age ten. In any case, my father was always linked to the sport, and in the 1950s he began exporting between 60 and 90 ponies per year from Argentina – it was during the Perón regime when you couldn’t get money out of the country. A means of survival at the time.

Polo 2 leveled and cropped Where have you played most as a professional? I played with a handicap of 4, most of it in England. I retired with a 3 in 2002, but I’ve been lucky enough to play all over the world. I also taught in Argentina, the United States, Jamaica, Nigeria, Dubai, Kenya and Thailand.

 

 

Picture 004

As you say, all over the place. Tell us about your career as a trainer. I’ve always thought that playing and teaching go together. I was lucky to be founding member of the Hurlingham Polo Association Coaching Federation. And we also founded and ran what became a low-goal club, the Inglesham Polo Club, which is now run by my son-in-law. My children, Roddie and Zöe are there, too. As I said, it runs in the family.

 

 

 

 

Picture 026 What made you decide to settle in the area?When I retired I felt that if I stayed there, I would get in the way of the children running the club. We came out to Sotogrande for a break and on the last day, I was asked if I would run the polo school at Santa María, which sort of made the decision for us. I was there for two years as Director – I’m still an honorary member – until we decided to set up a small school ourselves.

Picture 021 What are your objectives with your school? It is always necessary to create a pool of young players, especially in this country. The idea is to play what I call ‘campo polo’, low profile, for those who don’t want to, or can’t, play at the top layers of the game. We get young people here – through JCM Polo’s website or by word of mouth – who really want to play, beginning with the basics. We offer them a ‘starter pack’. But we also get a lot of players who are headed to Argentina and want to ‘fine tune’ their game before playing there. In any case, they get some four hours a day – which is quite a lot – of which two and a half are practical lessons, the rest they spend with theory in the classroom.

Picture 010 What do you consider to be the most important requirements of a good player? To start with, they have to be good riders, which is obvious. They should have a good basic knowledge of the game itself, of its rules and regulations, as well as a good understanding of a field game, such as football or rugby, which are team games. They should be team players, which is important. They should also have a good eye for the ball: they will know they have if they’re any good at tennis, for instance. They should have a yen for detail, as safety is utterly essential: they can’t have their grooms be the only ones to check a girth before they mount… It’s for their own safety, as well as the other players. And they should be physically fit. In fact, I’ve noticed they’re not as fit today as they used to be, maybe because they have less time or they spend too many hours at a desk, I don’t know.

Polo 3 leveled and cropped What are the main differences between Argentina, Britain and Spain, in terms of the game, its organization and infrastructure?Argentina and Britain are very similar in that the game there is highly professional. Over there, the commercial sponsor has become more important than the individual patron. In Europe, the patrons are reluctant to give up the stranglehold they have on the game, which makes it less professional, more amateur. That’s why I believe a polo league system should be created – a Super League, perhaps, at European, or even world, level. This would certainly give Spain more credibility. As for infrastructure, Argentina, and Palermo in particular, are unlikely to be bettered. Britain has tradition as well as Hurlingham, which rules supreme.

Thank you.

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