This is What it’s Like to Be a Professional Polo Player
And also really ridiculously good looking.
Generally, I make it a policy as a writer not to comment on a person’s physical appearance in a story—mostly because it’s the main device a lot of journalists use to describe female subjects; also because it’s largely irrelevant and unimportant. But in the exceptional case of Nic Roldan I say, fuck it: I’m throwing my feminist writerly principles to the wind. Frankly, Roldan is the most good looking man—nay, person—I’ve ever met IRL, ever. He’s the kind of good looking that you just want to stare at in silence, but then he starts talking and, well, that’s nice,too.
Pause for flustered hair fiddling and blushing.
But the *real* story here (trying to stay on message, I swear), is that Roldan is a professional athlete—a polo player, to be exact. He’s been at it since he was fourteen and is considered to be one of the best in the world—and, on top of doing the jetset circuit (Palm Beach, Connecticut, Aspen, England, Santa Barbara…) and playing with the likes of Prince Harry, Roldan is bent on bringing the sport to a wider audience and making it much more accessible. Let’s just say we’re very happy to be part of that audience.
How he got his start as a professional polo player:
“My father was a professional polo player, my great-grandfather and grandfather were also polo players way back before there was a professional level, and it was a hobby. I grew up around horses. We would do the winters in Florida and the summers in Boston. I've been riding since I was two or three years old, and it's always been second nature for me and my family. I became professional when I was 14.
“I was one of the first to become a professional at such a young age. I sort of fell into it. When you grow up in a polo family, you play kids polo. You are constantly riding horses—polo families are diehard. My dad would take me to the barns in the afternoon after school and make me ride. I was always into sports, I played a lot of ice hockey and golf, and I rowed. I always played polo but I never really said that it was going to be the thing I wanted to do. Long story short, I was playing at a kids tournament and during the Florida season, January through April, we host the biggest tournaments in the States and some of the biggest in the world. The team’s owner got injured, and asked if I would play in his place. I played throughout the US Open and we ended up winning. I was the youngest ever in the history of the tournament to win at 14 years old. If it wasn't for that opportunity, I might not be here today. I left school and had a private tutor that traveled with me. I was in New York for the rest of the summer with another team and we won everything. I won Player Of The Year that year. One thing led to another and I was getting calls from tons of other teams to play. That was the kickstart of my career as a professional polo player.”
The life of a professional polo player (it’s a tough one!):
“My circuit starts in Palm Beach, January through April. Then I go to London for three months. I'm about an hour outside of London in a place called Midhurst competing in two tournaments, the Queen’s Cup and the Gold Cup. In polo there are three locations in the world that host the biggest tournaments that have all the best polo players in the world, all the best organizations: Palm Beach, England, and Argentina. I do Palm Beach and England.
“I play for the Audi team. We do the Aspen World Snow Polo Championships with them in December. I'm in Florida for five or six months of the year, and the the other half of the year I travel. I'm in England, Aspen, Greenwich, Hawaii, Mexico, Argentina and China.”
What training looks like:
“It's a lot of cross training, not a lot of heavy weights. You want to be lean and very flexible. I ride for a living, so for me and any other professional, it comes very naturally. Any riding that I do is done to prepare the horse. Our own training is a lot of cardio because the game lasts about two hours. Running—I have bad knees, so I try not to run as much as possible—biking, a lot of swimming; stuff that doesn't make you bulk up. And a lot of yoga because you want to be very flexible, slim, and mobile on the horse. During the game, it's four players on a team and you are constantly moving and changing positions. You are traveling at speeds of 35-40 miles per hour. There is a lot of body checking and hooking. It's intense.”
The dangers inherent to the sport:
“I’ve only separated a shoulder and had some stitches. I've eaten shit a lot. If you put yourself in the right positions, you are going to be alright. If you put yourself in a wrong situation on the field, you are going to get hurt. I've been lucky to not be injured. People don’t realize how dangerous the sport is—we had two players die last year. It's intense and very demanding. You can't think about that though. It's like Formula One racers, Nascar drivers, or dirt bike racers.”
Why polo isn’t as fancy as you think it is:
“It’s a total misconception that it's a sport played by only the rich and famous. People think of Prince Harry and Prince William. For me, it’s a job; it's a cutthroat sport. There is more and more money getting invested in the sport. Salaries have gone up, the value of horses has gone up and the demand to win has become greater.”