The most popular sports you’ve never heard of
The University of Idaho is home to more than 20 club sports teams ranging from men’s volleyball and water polo to rodeo and rugby. The University of Idaho Horse Polo and Ultimate Frisbee teams are two of the lesser-known club teams on campus but their friendly atmosphere and welcoming attitude leave them open to any students wishing to participate.
Liz Moore, senior and president of the women’s varsity horse polo team, said the sport is intense but also a fun social activity and no experience is necessary to join the team.
“We will literally teach you everything,” Moore said.
Horse polo is played in teams of three while players ride their horses and attempt to score by hitting a ball between the goal posts with a wooden mallet.
Moore said the team plays four 7-minute quarters known as chukkers.
“It’s a pretty physical sport,” Moore said. “We wear helmets with face guards, knee guards, tall boots and gloves and we ride in an English saddle which is a lot different than most people are used to. They’re smaller and take a lot more leg muscle.”
Moore said she began riding horses when she was 9, but got involved with the polo team during her freshman year at UI. She said the team is competitive, but more importantly it is a social club.
“When we travel, we stay at our opponents houses,” Moore said. “I’ve made some of my best friends playing (polo).”
Each team member pays $300 dues that go directly to caring for the team’s horses, which are housed at Paradise Stables in Moscow. The team has 12 horses this year and they are responsible for the care of the horses.
“We’re a self-sufficient club,” Moore said. “We clean the stables and take care of the horses. They are our responsibility.”
Horse polo teams do not travel with their own horses, so in order to compete against other schools they must ride the opposing team’s horses.
“It really improves you riding skills,” Moore said.
Opposing teams and players voted the UI horses the best playing pony-string last year.
“It means people liked our horses the best,” Moore said. “We take pride in our horses and they are very well cared for.”
The polo season runs from October through March, but Moore said the first semester is mainly dedicated to teaching players the game while the second semester is the competitive season.
The team competes against Washington State University, Oregon State University, Eastern Oregon University, Montana State University, California Polytechnic State University, Stanford, Westmont and Colorado State University.
The team plays in a regional tournament which then qualifies them for the national tournament. In 2010 the boy’s polo team competed in the national tournament.
Moore said all students are welcome to join the club regardless of riding experience and are given a trial period before they pay their dues. In order to get involved in the club, students should email email@example.com. The team practices four nights a week at Paradise Stables.
“I enjoy it because it’s intense, you make life-long friends and I love it because it’s competitive and we get to travel,” Moore said. “It’s just something different than your normal sport.”
Ultimate Frisbee is one of the most accepting club sports available, said Junior and co-captain of the team Kyle Morgan.
“I love it for the environment and the atmosphere,” Morgan said. “We’re really accepting and we take anybody on the team. Anybody can pick up a Frisbee and learn how to play which is a lot different from other sports. There isn’t as much of a learning curve so once you get hooked you get a lot better.”
Morgan has been on the team for three years and said the numbers this year are much better than years past with upward of 30 players at each practice.
Morgan said the game is played on a field that is approximately 120 yards by 40 yards, with seven players from each team on the field at a time. Morgan said there are two positions in ultimate — handlers and cutters.
“There’s really two things you can do,” Morgan said. “You’re either a handler where you’re basically like the quarterback in football except there’s two or three of you, and then the rest are cutters. They’re the receivers who are making all the movements that can drive the disk up the field and then they’ll drop it back to handlers because they have the better throws.”
Ultimate is also one of the only competitive sports that is self-officiated.
“Meaning the players call all the fouls and things like that,” Morgan said. “A foul is any contact between players that is incidental or accidental. If I have the Frisbee and I’m trying to throw it and somebody hits my hand when I’m trying to throw it, that’s a foul. When I’m trying to catch it and someone hits me, I could technically call a foul.”
Morgan said that despite a lack of referees and the competitiveness of the game, players generally respect the rules and disputes are rare.
“They’re friendly discussions,” Morgan said. “There’s supposed to be a mutual respect between players called spirit of the game where you don’t argue so much as just talk about it for a couple seconds — either ‘I fouled you’ or ‘I didn’t foul you’ and then the game goes from there.”
Players are allowed to hold onto the disk for 10 seconds before it becomes a turnover. The player defending the person with the Frisbee is responsible for keeping track of the seconds.
The team plays in three or four tournaments during the fall semester and in the spring they play in the college series.
“That’s kind of like the March Madness of Frisbee,” Morgan said. “The way it works is you go to sectional tournaments with teams in our area like Wazzu, Boise and Montana – we play them and then the top two teams get to go to regionals and then if you win there, you get to go to the national tournament.”
Morgan said students who want to get involved on the team are welcome to show up to practice at any time. The team practices on Monday and Friday nights at 7 p.m. at the SprinTurf. The women’s only practices are Sunday evenings at 6 p.m.
Morgan said he encourages all students to get involved because the sport is laid back and has a fun atmosphere that is accepting of everyone.
“It’s just like a big old get together when you go to tournaments — seeing all your old friends and having fun, playing ultimate,” Morgan said.
Kaitlyn Krasselt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org