Inner City Polo Team Wins National Championship

Kareem Rosser was born in West Philadelphia.

“I’m one of six children – my mom was a single mother,” Kareem said. “My dad just sort of up and left.

“I had no idea what was going to get me out,” Kareem said. “But immediately, when I found the horse stable, I knew that was my departure.”

At least it was the start. When Kareem was 8-years-old, he joined “Work to Ride“, a non-profit horse stable founded by Lezlie Hiner. The program accepts male and female students ages 7 to 18.

For the last 15 years or so, Lezlie has been making a deal with the kids: work around the stable and you can ride. And if you really want to be adventurous, you can also play polo.

“We’re the only inner-city, African-American polo team in the country,” Lezlie said.

“I didn’t even know what polo was, I never even heard the word,” Kareem said. “I knew nothing about polo.”

1. A typical outdoor game of polo consists of up to six periods or chukkers, plus an unlimited number of overtime periods.  Each period is 7 1/2 minutes long with a 4 minute rest between periods, except at half-time when there is a 10 minute rest. Assume a game of six chukkers with no overtime periods. Altogether, how long would the game last?

2. The High School game is 4 chukkers. Assuming a 4 minute rest between chukkers and a 10 minute half time, how long does a game last at this level?

3. How much less time does the High School game take to play?

The 2011 three-man team included Kareem, his younger brother Daymar and their friend Brandon, who grew up down the block on Viola Street.

“Ralph Lauren Polo – that’s all I knew about Polo,” Brandon said.

They compete in the official Polo Association high-school league. Where they enter each match with three strikes already against them.

First, their practice field is a busy public park. Second, the park is full of divots. Third, their polo ponies are race track rejects. “We can’t go out and practice every day. We don’t have well-manicured grass,” Kareem said. “We practice on some of the worst horses.”

4. The outdoor game is played on a turf field measuring approximately 300 yards by 200 yards. Calculate the perimeter and area of the playing field.

Those disadvantages have always been part of Work to Ride polo, especially for Lezlie’s first few teams who didn’t do to well against the rich kids, she said. She said they “just spanked us week after week after week.”

But after three years competing, something amazing happened – they actually won a game. It was against a girl’s team, but they won nonetheless. And over the next 10 years, they have continued to improve.

In 2011 the Work to Ride team made it all the way to the national championship game to play the Baltimore Polo Club, a perennial powerhouse. When the buzzer finally sounded that afternoon, the boys from Viola Street were the new high-school polo champions. Final score 24-17.

5. How many points did the Work to Ride team win by?

“From where I come from in the inner-city, what I want kids to take from this is that you put your mind to anything and you can do it,” Kareem said.

girls polo team

Work to Ride team the Cowtown Dahlias 2011: Sheree Harris, Shariah Harris, Sigherra Meyers

Because of their polo connections, Kareem and his brother now attend a $40,000-a-year private high school on scholarship. And all three kids are planning on going to college.

Hear the story of how Kareem started riding. He also talks about what he’s doing now.

all photos courtesy of Work to Ride

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