A Brief Introduction to the Sport of Polo



A graduate of the University of Virginia School of Law, Lisa M. Nousek joined Armonk, New York’s Boies Schiller Flexner, LLP, as a civil litigation attorney in 2006. Now a partner at the firm, Lisa M. Nousek spends her time away from work trail riding horses and playing polo.

Polo is one of the world’s oldest and most dynamic sports. The primary objective of a polo match is to score more goals than the opponent over the course of six chukkers, or time periods of 7 minutes each. Chukkers are separated by 3-minute breaks and a 15-minute intermission, for an approximate match length of 90 minutes. Polo teams comprise four riders with positions numbered one through four. Players one and two are more offense oriented, while positions three and four provide defense.

Points are scored by driving the ball through the opponent’s goal. Following scoring, teams switch scoring ends as a means of offsetting any environmental advantages. Each of the eight riders is mounted on a full-size pony foal, measuring up to 1,100 pounds. In addition to the players, two mounted officials follow the game and issue fouls when necessary, most of which are aimed at enforcing safe riding and playing actions.


The History of Polo, the World’s Oldest Team Sport

Polo pic

Image: polomuseum.com

Lisa M. Nousek, partner at the Boies, Schiller & Flexner, LLP firm of Armonk, New York, has quickly established herself as a capable civil litigation attorney, gaining recognition as a top-rated Super Lawyer only eight years after earning her juris doctor. In her spare time, Lisa M. Nousek is fond of caring for and riding horses, and has come to enjoy playing and actively supporting polo, a game with a history longer than any other team sport played today.

Polo originated among the horse-riding nomads of Central Asia, most likely as a form of training and exercise for mounted combat skills. It eventually passed to Persia some time around 600 BC, when the first recorded game was played between Persians and Turkomans (the ancestors of modern Turks). While the current game is limited to three or four players per team, the oldest teams could constitute a small horde of up to 100 players per side. Given the prestige and historically exorbitant expense of raising well-bred horses, polo was long limited to the wealthy and aristocratic classes, lending polo the nickname the sport of kings.

After the Persians established formal rules for polo, the game spread outward throughout Asia, from Constantinople in the far west, to Japan in the far east. However, the Manipur state of Northern India, became the birthplace of the most modern iteration of the sport when British military officers and tea planters observed the game in 1859 and decided to form their own polo club, importing the sport to England. Through British influence, the game spread beyond Asia into every other continent, even returning to its roots as a war game thanks to its adoption and support by the US Army’s West Point academy in 1901.

An Introduction to the Polo Handicap System

Polo Handicap System pic

Polo Handicap System
Image: sportpolo.com

Lisa M. Nousek has practiced complex civil litigation as a partner at Boies, Schiller and Flexner, LLP, in Armonk, New York, since 2006. Away from her professional activities, Lisa M. Nousek enjoys staying active through polo.

The sport of polo makes use of a handicap system similar to the handicap system used in golf. Handicaps in polo are represented by numbers ranging from minus two to 10. Players competing with sub-zero handicaps are regarded as novices, while a 10 goal handicap is also known as a perfect handicap. Only a dozen or so 10 goal players exist around the world. More than 60 percent of polo players in the United States play with a handicap of two goals or less. Any player with a handicap of three or above is generally capable of competing at the professional level.

The handicap for each player is determined by a national competition committee. The system is the same for both men and women. Though handicaps are referred to as a three-goal or six-goal handicap, the number does not represent the total number of goals a player is expected to score in a single match, but rather the overall value a player brings to his or her team.

A Basic Overview of Equestrian Polo and Its Rules

The 2013 recipient of the New York Metro Area Rising Star award, Lisa M. Nousek practices commercial liability law as a partner at Boies, Schiller & Flexner, LLP. A sponsor of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy and the Polo Training Foundation, Lisa M. Nousek is an avid rider and experienced polo player.

Lasting about an hour and a half, a polo match is comprised of six chukkers – seven-minute periods – with three-minute breaks between each and a halftime of 15 minutes. The 10-acre field has goals on either side of its 300-yard length. With two four-person teams, each numbered jersey designates the player’s position and responsibilities.

A polo match is based around which player has control of the ball, called the line of the ball; when the path of the ball’s travel is on a player’s right side, and he or she was the last to strike it. It’s an imaginary line, and a pair of umpires ensure no other players pass through the line of the ball. Defensive players can take away the line of the ball by pushing the controlling player off the line with their shoulder, stealing the ball, hooking the offensive player’s mallet, or bumping the player’s horse, which must be done at a less-than-45-degree angle. For safety reasons, players may only use their right hand.