When asked about this test match, Rahul Desai shared that “every great moment comes from a great opportunity. I feel that this is an amazing opportunity for us to create a noteworthy moment for USA polocrosse”.
Thoughts from the Coach
Rob Shuttles is no stranger to World Cups or International Tours! As a player, he was the USA World Cup Team Captain in 2003, 2007, 2011, and 2019. In 2015 he was the coach for the Team. He also coached a junior tour in Australia and an adult mixed team in the UK. When asked about his mindset as a coach, he says “we will be up in games as well as down, but we always need to treat the ‘next ball’ with the utmost importance”.
For this test match in New Zealand, Shuttles says he is “looking forward to how our men will respond to the adversity of a tour. I want to see them play at their same level (or even better) on unfamiliar horses. We have only played NZ once (“15 World Cup) so it will be a great task for us”. He advised the squad to ride different horses whenever possible and get their cardio in the gym to prepare for this match.
Excitement for the Match
Desai has traveled to many places and played polocrosse in several countries, but hasn’t been to New Zealand before. “I’m really looking forward to seeing their country and learning about their culture. In terms of polocrosse, New Zealand has strong polocrosse roots with some of the best players and horses in the world. Their background and history speaks for itself. For us players here in the states, we crave a higher level of competition as it is quite tough to get it locally given the broad distribution of our top players and the large travel distances required for each tournament. That said, I’m looking forward to putting my training and skills to the test against some world-class players and giving it my best, all while enjoying the experience with ‘the boys’”.
One of ‘the boys’ Glenn Bigsby (G5), says “this test match will be very exciting for us and will tell us much about what we need to continue to improve on as a team”.
Training for an International Test Match
This will be Houston Hutchersons’ second international tour, and he is also looking forward to seeing a new level of competition. To prepare, he has focused on riding, stick skills on the ground, running, and lifting weights. He has even done some yoga and spin classes. (Anyone else remember Kate Lahrs and Kat Liners ‘Yoga for Polocrosse Players’ class at the 2021 EZ Mega Clinic?). This is also G5’s second international tour. G5 practiced stick work every day and tried to ride as many different horses as possible.
The lead-up time for this test match series was in the middle of winter which is not ideal for chukkas. Desai focused on keeping his stick work sharp and stepping up his health and fitness through cardio and weights. He shared that he “watched a lot of film from past games as well as some overseas play which has helped break things down and slow the game down a good bit. Watching errors made in the past and thinking of the different options that were available at the time allows me to practice mental imagery/visualization. I believe this will only help me in the long run, both in playing and coaching.”
The team met for a refresher weekend in mid-January hosted by Tennessee Valley Polocrosse Club. The players rode a different horse at each session. Shuttles says “anytime we can be around one another the better the team will become… One thing I know for sure is the effort and passion to improve is very alive in this group of players”.
Impact on U.S. Polocrosse
The experiences that players have on international tours is shared throughout the polocrosse community in North America. Shuttles explained that “these players bring back a wealth of knowledge, experience, and work ethic back to their local clubs as many of them have run clinics across the country”. Three of the players, Shuttles, and Wade Liner are all APA Certified Instructors who can be contacted for clinics. Several of the players are involved as coaches of their clubs.
We’re looking forward to hearing what the team learns from their time in New Zealand!
Get ready to cheer on Team USA!
*** Some quotes were lightly edited for grammar and readability.