Aug 09, 2016 2:27 PM

NYTS logo

Established in 2013, the National Youth Tournament Series (NYTS) was the first national outdoor tournament for youth players. NYTS provides opportunities for rated young players who have not exceeded their nineteenth birthday as of January 1 to compete against their peers at qualifier matches nationwide. At each qualifier, players are selected as All-Stars, who are then eligible to be selected to advance to the National Championship - Cecil Smith Cup, held annually over Labor Day weekend.

NYTS game action zone 2
Photo: Elizabeth Hedley

In the spring of 2012 a group of leaders, who were heavily involved in the Team USPA program, identified that polo in this country required more opportunities for youth players. They recognized a gap in youth polo, especially during the summer outdoor season. As a result, the USPA Polo Development, LLC’s Junior Committee, chaired by Chrys Beal, established a spring- and summer-long tournament series, where youth players could compete against their peers and advance to a national championship-type event. With the support of Amanda Snow (Director of Player Development- USPA Polo Development, LLC), Beal continues to lead and has been instrumental to the program enlisting a committee of other interested parents and polo enthusiasts. “The reception by the polo community shows in the participation and level of play, which has been very rewarding to see!” said Beal with a smile, when asked about the program and its evolution.

While many NYTS Qualifiers across the country exhibit atypical tournament polo, with rosters of B-rated players on the same team, spectators often herald the competition as some of the best and most memorable polo of the season. Qualifiers take place countrywide, from South Florida to California, and in more northern states such as Minnesota and Massachusetts. The popularity of the tournaments, an impressive 33 qualifiers in 2016 alone, allows players to compete without being required to travel long distances. Participants enter the tournament as individuals and supply their own horses (there are no split strings in NYTS as there are in Intercollegiate/Interscholastic events). Players are then assembled onto teams by the host club. Often players have never met before and are required to devise a game strategy within a short period of time.

Conrad Kissling NYTS
Photo: Elizabeth Hedley

Players are selected as All-Stars based on four categories: sportsmanship, horsemanship, team play and playing ability. Sportsmanship and horsemanship are more heavily weighted categories for this process. An incredibly talented player can be disqualified as an All-Star as a result of poor sportsmanship or horsemanship on the field. It is the NYTS mentality that taking care of and having a sense of ownership and pride for a horse builds character and a sense of responsibility. These values carry over into other areas of each participant’s life, such as the classroom, job, home and in valuable friendships. “Having the chance to build connections with people who share the same passion for polo, playing a variety of new horses and of course touring all the phenomenal places I get to visit has been invaluable!” said Marissa Wells, 2015 National Champion and three-time National Championship Zone Four player, about the opportunities afforded to her through the NYTS program.

Since the first NYTS season in 2013, there has been a 400% increase in the number of rated youth USPA members. NYTS is the only USPA outdoor tournament where youth players have the opportunity to play exclusively with their peers, in an outdoor USPA Tournament. Allowing these young athletes the opportunity to compete against their friends is a unique and crucial step in developing a young player. In NYTS there is no pro- or big hitter playing, which necessitates that each of the players carries an equal amount of the team. Keep in mind, there may be older kids with a 1+ goal handicap at some qualifiers, however this is testament to the success of the program. This year, a total of 265 individual players participated in the NYTS program, with 96 teams competing over the course of the season, and 70 players competing at more than one qualifier. These numbers are evidence that the NYTS program has opened many opportunities for youth players to compete against their peers.

Twin City NYTS
Twin City Polo Club NYTS Qualifier. Photo: Bob Hosker

This enthusiasm has prompted new clubs to add NYTS to their summer schedules and in 2016 seven new clubs hosted qualifiers. Research on youth membership prompted NYTS leaders to reach out to clubs with active youth membership growth. “We had more first-time host clubs this year than ever!” Snow beamed. “We looked at where the kids were playing and then we contacted the clubs in the area. Every single one of them was willing and eager to host a qualifier. Most of these new locations ended up hosting big events with four or five teams! For example, Foxlease Polo Club in Upperville, Virginia, had 20 kids sign up for their very first qualifier!” Hosting clubs go to great lengths to put on these events, promoting the event as their weekly featured match and often providing their main field to showcase NYTS competition. In many instances, clubs also provide coaches for the teams. With prominent polo greats as field side resources for the players, NYTS qualifiers have become a highly sought after event.

NYTS Win Celebration
Win Celebration. Photo: Elizabeth Hedley

The design of the National Youth Tournament Series has filled a void in the development of young sportspersons, allowing rated players to compete on the field with their peers. The program instills valuable lessons about being a team player, while improving a participant’s polo game. The 2016 NYTS season is coming to a close, which means the NYTS National Championship - Cecil Smith Cup is right around the corner! This year’s Championships will be held at Myopia Polo Club in Hamilton, Massachusetts over Labor Day weekend. If you are in the Boston area, visit Myopia Polo Club to witness the high-caliber youth polo action or catch live updates on the USPA website.

Stay tuned for the announcement of the 2016 NYTS Championship teams!

Want more information on the USPA NYTS program? Email Amanda Snow at