A quick word with.....Rebecca Walters
Catching Rebecca for a chat was not an easy task but just before she called a meeting with her team at the 21st International Ladies Tournament Polo Park Zurich, I was able to lure her into the cool clubhouse and she gave me her time.
Rebecca, what's your handicap and home club?
In women's polo it's +6 and in mixed I'm +1. I play mainly at Cowdray.
How and when did you get into polo?
I had been in show jumping, but was at University when I saw a Varsity polo match at Guards Polo Club. There was no show jumping at University so I joined the polo team. I had played a lot of competitive hockey and so this was the perfect combination for me, but it all really kicked off when I was given a trip to Argentina for my 21st birthday and was able to train with professional polo players.
Do you breed your own ponies?
I do a bit of hobby home-breeding and have two fillies from the mare Neblina and stallion Osh Kosh, which belongs to Alan Kent. The first filly was just so lovely and so beautifully built that I just had to try for a second. She is now three and a half, and is stick and balling, while the second will be backed in September.
What is the importance of having women's handicaps?
They came into the UK about 10 years ago and have been really important in attracting attention to women's polo and giving it a higher profile. This, in turn, encourages sponsorship for women's tournaments and gives women the chance to play positions they may not be given in mixed teams. From this they can gain skill -sets such as team management, organization and people skills. They also get the chance to make the pressure plays...hit-ins, penalties, and this is an empowering thing. They're not just blockers but understand the reason for being in a certain place on the field. These skills they can take back into mixed polo.
Did you have any player who inspired you?
Among the female players it'd have to be Hazel Jackson who has shown me that women can be professional players. Mahesh Palmer, a male player who saw me buying my first pair of polo boots, gave me the opportunity to work with him and play in his team. He was a true inspiration to me and tremendously helpful in setting me on my way to a higher handicap.
What advice would you give a female player wanting to improve her game?
Spend as much time as possible understanding your horses. Women are sensitive and have the ability to be good horsewomen, and a good horsewoman makes a good player.
Believe in yourself and never say "no, I can't". I have two older brothers and gender just never came into it. I always felt as good as they were at anything.
What are your plans for the future?
Survive Covid!!! (She laughs). Aside from this, I'd like to play more in Europe and focus a bit more on my coaching. We've set up a charity, the Ladies Polo Foundation, helping to create opportunities for young girls. We have given two polo scholarships to South Africa and Argentina and I'd like to put in more time here.
Can you give me three words to describe polo?
Defining for me would be focus, communication and fun.
Thank you Rebecca and all the best for your future.
My pleasure, Jan