I just happened to catch this story as told by CBS News’ Lara Logan. I was only half listening to the story, until the horses were on. And one young man named Kareem Rosser appeared on the screen. What was so surprising about the entire story was that the National Championship this young man from West Philly and his teammates won was in polo. Yes, polo. The “Sport of Kings,” and all that.
In case you have never seen polo, it is an incredibly fast paced, dangerous, game done all on horseback. For the horse, it involves competing skills. It has to be fast, strong, and agile. One minute the horse may need to steak down the field, the next, tip toe over the boards marking the boundary, then shove up against another horse as hard as it can to get its rider in place to get the ball. Truly a remarkable athlete, the polo pony.
The game itself is very, very difficult. As a top international star, Nacho, says in the video below, it is like “playing golf during an earthquake,” or words to that effect. Here is his story, as well as Kareem’s:
Amazing, isn’t it? From the sound of the horses thundering down the field, to the young potential polo ponies nuzzling Logan, to this young man from West Philly becoming a star polo player.
The Work to Ride program is a mighty impressive one. It is available to urban youth, not just at risk children. For example, Philly Mayor Michael Nutter’s daughter was a part of this program, according to this Pennsylvania Equestrian article. About the National Championship win, Mayor Nutter said this:
…”When you are dedicated to something, you can accomplish anything you want, regardless of who you are or where you came from. If you fall down, you have to pick yourself up and dust yourself off, a rule these young men live by and want other young people to follow in sports, but more importantly, in the classroom.”…(There is much more to this story, including the college teams against which these high school kids practiced. I urge you to read the rest.)
The program itself is impressive, as highlighted in the PA Equestrian article:
[snip] Founded in 1994, Work to Ride is a tremendously successful 501 c3 program which uses horses and horse sports in unique and innovative ways as a means to engage urban youth in wholesome, constructive activities. The program accepts male and female students ages 7 to 18.
WTR provides youngsters with a positive outlet for their energy and an alternative to negative “street” activities. Through active participation in WTR programs, young people acquire a variety of life skills. Participants develop discipline and responsibility by performing chores at the center in addition to their riding, training and horse care responsibilities. Not only do they earn riding time but they also develop skills to compete in any number of horse sports of their choosing. Self-esteem is increased through each stage of the program as participants achieve preset goals.
Shortly after the inception of the WTR program, it became apparent that the youth were extremely motivated and interested in the sport of polo. The speed of the horse and athletic ability of horse and rider combined with a competitive atmosphere produced an enthusiasm and commitment unmatched by any other horse sport. Students must maintain passing grades to play on the polo team, and the program’s volunteer tutors help them with schoolwork.[snip]
Kareem, along with his brother, Daymar, and their teammates, have most definitely benefited from this program. Kareem had this to say after their incredible win:
“You know, not only did we do it for each other, but we did it for the polo community, and we did it for every other African American young boy who comes from where we come from,” said Kareem Rosser, a senior at Valley Forge Military Academy and the team captain. “We wanted to let everyone know that it was possible, and that whatever you put your mind to, you can actually do.”
Amen to that, Kareem. What a great Sunday message that is. Congratulations to you and your team on your amazing win.
Polo is certainly one of the most dangerous sports, but oh, my, is it beautiful watching the horse and rider work as a team barreling up and down the field. Incredible. How wonderful that these young folks were so taken by this sport, and became so accomplished.
Congratulations to the Work To Ride program, too. Brilliant idea to interest urban youth with work with horses, and learning such amazing skills, plus emphasizing academics. It sure seems like it’s working, if Kareem and the National Championship are any indication. Well done.
Is there a story that has inspired you of late, or a photo, song, or video? Feel free to share it here. Have a great Sunday!