Nic Roldan, the captain of the USA national polo team, is serious about his sport. The sportsman – and part-time model – owns over 30 polo ponies, has an eight-goal handicap, and won his first U.S Open Polo Championship at the age of 15. Now 34 – and dating Bruce Springsteen’s daughter – Roldan speaks exclusively to Gentleman’s Journal about his passion for polo, the importance of training, and what he makes of Britian.
Polo has a strong following all over the world. But do you think it could ever each the popularity of other mainstream sports?
I don’t think polo will ever get to the level of football or baseball, yet I strive to promote the beauty of the sport, the horses, the game in general and the lifestyle and try to present it in a way that makes it attractive to a wider audience.
Polo is an extreme sport, played at speeds of up to 40 mph with a lot of physical contact – and that tends to attract crowds! I’d say the biggest misconception in polo is that people perceive it as an elitist social lifestyle as opposed to an actual sport. But this isn’t the case, and I hope the can continue to grow and head in the right direction and with better guidance and education.
There does, however, seem to be a bit of a glass ceiling element about it where people are tentative about attending – but there shouldn’t be this scepticism. It’s very accessible and offers so much – be it networking event or a family day out. I’ve invited people from all different walks of life – from top CEO’s to local primary school kids – and they’ve all loved it.
How has the sport changed over the years you have played?
The sport has become extremely professional and competitive over the years, and there is more and more money being invested into the game. Stakes, therefore, are high, and the talent and ability of the players has become greatly increased.
A lot has changed with training, too. There’s not a top level team without their own dedicated personal training and physio staff anymore – and that’s because the sport is getting faster and there is no longer room for an unfit player on the team. Bad decisions and inadequate fitness can cost you the game, or even your life, so we train hard – physically and mentally.
As far as coverage is concerned, there has also been a lot of changes. This has increased the awareness of polo, and it helps make the sport more professional. Almost all top level games are streamed live, and in Argentina, the polo world leaders, there is a dedicated ESPN Polo Channel.
Why do you think it’s important to use Polo to raise both money and awareness for charities?
Polo is a sport that attracts people from all different walks of life and cultures and thus provides a great platform for philanthropic work. Philanthropy has always been something which is very important to me and using polo as a platform has been very successful in raising both awareness and funds for organisations close to my heart. I’ve worked closely with Brooke USA, Kids Cancer Foundation and a local kids hospice to where I’m based in the UK, Chestnut Tree House.
In 2016, I held the first of my charity events in Palm Beach Florida where we welcomed around 600 guests and raised $142K, this year we held the second edition with over 1000 people attending and $313K raised and then at the end of June we held the first global event here at Cowdray Park in West Sussex, the home of British Polo, with 750 guests attending and £100K raised. It was a great privilege to be able to hold the UK edition at Cowdray House and the historical House ground.
How would you recommend people interested in polo to become involved in the sport?
There are polo academies all over the world, and they are growing as the sport becomes more popular. It is a sport that will only become more popular if the passion and interest is there. I know some academies here in the UK even offer party events where people have a go at polo. I myself will be doing some VIP masterclasses both in Europe and in the US which is an area I’m keen to develop a unique immersive experience.
What do you think of Britain as a whole, what have your experiences been like here so far, and is Polo approached differently here than it is in the US?
The passion for polo and support it gets is far greater than many other places I’ve seen around the world, it is somewhat embedded in your culture. For example, this year, the final of the Gold Cup for the British Open at Cowdray was played in the pouring rain! I think only the Brits would be sat under an umbrella with a glass of bubbly watching it and then be rewarded with the half time entertainment of a streaker?!
England is definitely one of my favourite places to play in the world – rain or shine. Polo always goes on no matter what the weather, and the countryside is stunning. In the UK I’m sponsored by Jeep so with the Grand Cherokee they gave me I got to travel around a bit visiting places like Arundel castle and going down to Bristol. Being able to play in the Queen’s and Gold Cup’s are two of the worlds best tournaments – and I’m determined to get involved with both!