Though not well known on the island there’s no doubt that segway polo is thriving. And Barbados has had success on the international stage in recent years. The country first entered the Woz Challenge Cup in 2009 and captured the title for the fourth time recently when the event was staged in Germany. In this week’s Community Corner, Barbados captain Nevin Roach speaks to SUNSPORT’S Ria Goodman.
GOODMAN: What is segway polo?
ROACH: The sport is quite similar to horse polo except that instead of playing on horseback, each player rides a segway PT on the field. The rules have been adapted from bicycle polo and horse polo. Two teams of five players each hit a ball with their mallets, trying to get the ball into the other team’s goal. The regulation field size is 200 feet by 128 feet, and the goal is eight feet wide by five feet high. A regulation match consists of four eight-minute quarters, known in polo as chukkas. The ball can be struck with the mallet or any part of a player’s body or segway but may only be directed using the mallet. A goal cannot be scored off of any part of a player’s body or segway unless it occurs accidentally.
GOODMAN: What are the origins in Barbados?
ROACH: A Barbadian entrepreneur, Jason Gilkes, was interested in starting a segway tournament company, which was launched in 2008. Looking for another fun activity to undertake with the segways, he came across segway polo. An exhibition match was played at Apes Hill Polo Club which was Segway polo holding its own The Barbados contingent celebrating the capture of the Woz Challenge Cup (from left): coordinator Lidia Luther, Ryan Rodriguez, Ralf Luther, David Eastmond, Brett Callaghan, Most Valuable Player Daniel Hatch and captain Nevin Roach. (GP) Barbados captain Nevin Roach (centre) trying to gain possession of the ball ahead of two players from German team Blade Dragons. (GP) viewed online and we were then invited by Germany to play in the Woz Challenge Cup.
GOODMAN: To what extent is the sport played locally?
ROACH: Locally, the sport is not widely played. The Segway Polo Club of Barbados has about 15 to 20 active members of which about ten turn up regularly for practice every Sunday.
GOODMAN: Since you first took the world title in 2009 has the awareness of the sport grown?
ROACH: Awareness of the sport’s existence has grown tremendously, which was very important to the club. Back then, there were only seven players, so there was definitely an increase in the number of players as well. Notwithstanding this, the club has seen new players come and go, but for the most part, the numbers hovered around what they are now. Post 2011, the club was only able to field one team in the 2013 and 2015 Woz Challenge Cup. However, due to good recruitment work, two teams were entered in the 2017 edition of the competition. Things are on the rise again and the club is constantly engaging people to bring in new players.
GOODMAN: Is there a programme where you teach others to play the sport?
ROACH: Absolutely. We always encourage people to come give the sport a try when we practise on Sunday mornings at the UWI hockey turf. It’s very easy to learn. Any newcomers are first put through a detailed and structured tutorial on riding segways and safety tips and are then introduced to the mallet and ball, and coached on the basics of the sport. New players are integrated into game play quickly.
GOODMAN: Polo played on a horse is viewed as an elite sport on the island. Is segway polo seen in the same light?
ROACH: To the contrary, it is not. Segway polo is actually referred to as the sport of equals, which opens it up for men, women, young and old.
GOODMAN: Team Barbados has been able to secure a number of titles. How do you see Barbados maintaining that success in future years?
ROACH: In the past, it wasn’t extremely difficult to win because many of the guys had natural ability and talent. However, as the sport developed over time, players and teams got better. The sport advanced from simply being able to hit the ball from defence to offence where a player receives and scores, to teams employing intricate tactics much like in football. To continue our success, we would have to maintain our rigorous training regimes in preparation for tournaments. We need to keep ahead of the other teams. If we lapse, they will catch up or even pass our level. Constant hard work is key.
Source: Nation News