Prescott polo player makes it to nationals

By Joe Peine
Posted 3/27/24

Imagine competing on a national stage after two years of playing polo. Sounds unbelievable, right?

Chance Miller from Prescott is part of a polo club based out of Baldwin that recently competed …

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Prescott polo player makes it to nationals


Imagine competing on a national stage after two years of playing polo. Sounds unbelievable, right?

Chance Miller from Prescott is part of a polo club based out of Baldwin that recently competed for the US Polo Association National Interscholastic national championship in Houston, taking second place in the nation.

Most people probably aren’t very familiar with what polo is besides a vague impression of guys that are obsessed with Ralph Lauren and ride horses a lot, but according to Marty Miller, Chance’s dad, it’s kind of like hockey on horseback.

“You can hit each other at a 30 mile an hour run and throw them on the ground, which happens all the time,” Miller said. “There's a lot of missing eyes, broken arms, broken ribs and concussions. It's a rough, rough game.”

Because of this, players wear helmets with a guard in case they take a mallet to the head. A lot of times the kids wear mouthguards and protective eyewear as well so if the face guard shatters it doesn't take their eyes out. They also wear kneepads, double leather boots, elbow pads and gloves.

“You’ve got 1,000-pound animals running and hitting each other, and you use the horse to move people over to take the ball away from them,” Miller said. “It's a very cool game. It's the coolest game ever made, but it's a very dangerous game.”

There are two versions of polo, indoor, or arena polo and then outdoor polo. The main difference besides ambience is the size of the field, the size of the teams and the size of the ball.

Indoors, teams of three compete on a field that’s roughly the size of a football field, and the ball they use is reminiscent of a miniature soccer ball. Outdoors, it’s teams of four and they play in an area that’s the size of 10 football fields with a hard plastic ball that’s a little bit bigger than a baseball.

Like other sports there are penalties and penalty shots. Some penalties are penalty shots while others are just a spot hit from where the foul is committed. If the ball goes out of bounds, it is a turnover to the other team. There are also three different levels of penalty shots which correspond to distances away from the goal and whether or not the opposing team can try to block them.

The rules are a little complex at first, but Chance Miller says the hardest part for him about learning to play was hitting the ball while running, especially when he was younger and smaller.

“I pretty much pick people and take people out for Robbie to score goals while his sisters, whichever one is in, holds the backfield in case someone comes back with the ball,” Chance Miller said. “There are two goals on either side in the arena, and there are throw-ins in the middle after each goal is scored and at the start of the game.”

As it’s kind of an obscure sport, the Millers only got into it, well, by chance.

Marty Miller had been to a few games, but he was hooked after his first lesson which was booked by his mom. Then he started buying horses, his son got into it and even his wife plays a little bit.

“Not a lot of people play polo. There's two clubs in our area, Twin City Polo Club, which is over in Maple Plain, Minn., and then there is Ameritina Polo Farm, which is in Baldwin,” Miller said.

The head coach and progenitor of the club is Nacho Pizarro, who is from Argentina. He married a local girl, then started a family and a polo club, and the Millers were one of its first members back in 2010-2011.

Since then, the Pizarro kids and Chance Miller became very good friends, and when they got older, they got into polo like their parents. That’s when the club decided to move into playing competitively, starting an interscholastic team so they could compete against other high school age programs.

Last year was Ameritina Polo Club’s first year of competition, and they made it to regionals but lost in the first round.

“It was Robbie Pizarro and Sophia Pizarro and my son, Chance Miller. That was the team,” Marty Miller said. “Very first time they ever did it, and they won their way into a place at regionals last year after winning their first two games. Coincidentally, they lost to Houston, which were national champions.”

This year however, they almost went all the way.

Although the outcome was similar as they lost to Houston, this time, they faced the three-time champion on a national stage in the championship game, albeit on Houston’s own turf. Out of 47 total teams nationwide, it came down to a small polo club in its second year from Baldwin, Wis. versus the reigning three-peat powerhouse from Texas.

Even though they lost, Chance Miller says it meant a lot to all of them to make it that far.

“We had lost in regionals to Houston, so getting the wildcard spot and being able to come back meant a lot to all of us especially, with how many practices we had done and how many hours we had in the saddle getting ready for all of this, watching film and strategizing for the whole year since around September,” Miller said. “We had put a lot of time into this, so it felt very rewarding and special to be able to play in something this big, especially in our second year of interscholastic competition.”

Out of the 45-50 high school teams that enter United States Polo Association competition each year, the sport tends to be more prevalent down south and out east. However, there are multiple competitive teams in the Midwest as well. The Ameritina team qualified for regionals this year by beating teams in Michigan and Milwaukee, which interestingly, they did with the other team’s mounts.

“When you travel, you use their horses. Everybody has to use the same horses, so they get to use them for half the game and then the other team uses them for half the game. That way there's not an advantage given to whoever's got the best horses,” Chance Miller said.

With indoor play at an end for the year, the club will switch to playing outdoors for the summer. Once fall hits though, it’ll be back to arena polo and practicing for another run at the championship.

“Polo is generational. For 85-90% of the people that play polo, it’s because it runs in their families. Their grandfathers and everybody has been playing it for years,” Marty Miller said. “What's really exceptional about this is you got a bunch of kids that hadn't played together in this tournament, you know, until last year for the first time. They lost to the best team in the nation, the three-time champion, but for them to go all the way there in their second year and put a pretty competitive game together in the championship is pretty impressive.”

polo, Chance Miller, Prescott, Ameritina Polo Farm, Baldwin, nationals