Bailey Smith, ’11, discovered her passion for playing polo at the age of ten at summer camp.  She continued to play throughout her childhood and joined her high school’s varsity team. She carried her love of the sport with her to the University of Richmond, founding a club team in 2008.

“Polo can probably best be described as a highlight of my life,” Smith said. “It makes the bad times more bearable and the good times that much better.”

While polo is traditionally thought of as a professional sport, collegiate polo has become more popular in the past decade. Collegiate polo is played in an indoor arena, opposed to an outdoor field, so there are three players on the field from each team at a time rather than four.

Smith chose to attend Richmond and pursue a liberal arts education, rather than choose to attend a school with a varsity polo program. She soon realized, however, that she needed polo to be part of her life at Richmond.  

She began laying the groundwork for the club during the summer of 2008, while she was working at a polo club in Iowa. She first had to establish the group with the United States Polo Association, collegiate polo’s governing body. After she had the USPA’s clearance, Smith had to obtain University approval and recruit members.

The team is co-ed, and while men and women practice together, they compete separately. Smith says that while they advise that members have some riding experience, she’s the only member of the club that’s ever played polo before.

The rest of the team is composed of strong riders dedicated to learning a new discipline. They travel an hour to practice at the Virginia Polo Center facilities in Charlottesville. Smith says it’s been a challenge competing against varsity teams from schools that provide funding and facilities to their players, but that their achievements have been noted by their opponents.

“We have been complimented by many people in the polo community as being remarkably competitive for only being in our second year of existence as a team,” she said. “Our new members have a great deal of potential and dedication to developing as players.”  

Polo is an expensive sport, but the team fundraises so that any player displaying effort and potential has the ability to join. Fall semester is open to all players, while spring semester is limited to the players that are able to compete in league tournaments.

“I would have to say that the first time we put on our Richmond Polo jerseys and walked out of the locker room at the VA Polo Center was one of the best feelings I’ve ever had,” Smith said.

Smith studied abroad in the fall of 2009 in Perugia, Italy at La Universita per Stranieri di Perugia and is also a member of the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority, the Pre-Law Honors program, the Golden Key honors society and Phi Beta Delta International Honor Society.