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Collegiate Polo Part II

In a continuation of the series based on COVID-19’s impact on I/I polo, I interviewed the president of the Texas Christian University’s polo program Morgan McBride to learn more about how the lockdown has impacted them and the challenges that they face as they move into the fall semester.

 As a former collegiate team president myself, I understand how sensitive the teams are to disruptions in their membership and activities. Unlike most competitive sports teams such as football or soccer, I/I polo is not fully funded by colleges or universities. These teams operate like small businesses, and each has its own unique format. Teams, like Yale, have become independent entities that own their own horses and employ workers while others, like TCU, form partnerships with local clubs and pay to rent horses and facilities. Each approach has its benefits and drawbacks, but both rely on a steady income to operate, which boils down to active membership. 

I had the pleasure of interviewing TCU president Morgan McBride. Morgan is a graduate of Culver Academies and an experienced equestrian. She is studying journalism in the hopes of becoming a future correspondent of polo for the USPA. 

When the lockdowns first went into effect, what were your initial reactions?

My teammates and I were disappointed, to say the least. We missed out on the closing of our season, which is when we celebrate our hard work with cookouts, senior send-offs and other team bonding events. We couldn’t help but feel the weight of the memories we weren’t able to make this semester.

What were some of the immediate impacts of the lockdown on how you operate?

COVID-19 has completely changed how our club operates. Beyond the physical practices, the spring semester is essential in preparing members for the leadership roles they will assume in the fall and completing required paperwork for our university. TCU requires us to hold elections for leadership roles in person. This has presented a unique challenge for us! Instead of being able to communicate face-to-face at practices and ruminate over things in a comfortable manner, we are now forced to communicate with one another solely through email, text messages and Zoom. Conversations are no longer organic. That being said, we are all reveling in the peculiarity of the situation and trying to make the most of our conversations.

You mentioned that TCU has requirements that have to be met by the team, can you explain more about this relationship? 

TCU Polo was founded in 2011 as a rec sports club that receives partial funding through the SGA. The rest of the budget for the team comes from membership dues. To remain an active club and receive funds from TCU, we have to meet minimum requirements in membership. 

What are your biggest concerns going forward?

Our biggest concern for the coming fall semester is club membership. Many underclassmen are considering transferring to different colleges closer to home due to financial burdens or uncertainty about how to return to physical classes next semester. Some teachers at Texas Christian University have informed us that they have been instructed to prepare online classes for Fall 2020 if we do not return to campus. If this happens, how will we recruit new members? We are also worried that incoming freshmen won’t feel financially comfortable enough to try a new sport. Our facility and horse rental are dependent upon maintaining a large club membership. Adversely to this, we are cognizant of incoming members and making sure that their experience is not further impacted by this pandemic. We are hoping that come Fall 2020, we have the club reorganized to provide the best environment for new club members!

How have you dealt with funding your club during this crisis? Do you have advice for

other programs?

My team and I used to gripe about Texas Christian University not allowing us to own our own horses, however, now we are thankful that we don’t have the financial burden of caring for a herd during this pandemic. My thoughts go out to the clubs that do have to manage and care for their herd. My best advice for other clubs is to be as transparent with their members as possible. This is a time of uncertainty for all of us. Including all members on financial difficulties or other issues within the club will help keep everyone united.


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