Nick Balogh and Shannon Molsky, both 17, will travel to New South Wales on Tuesday as part of the American Polocrosse Association’s youth development team. They and their four teammates will compete against Australian squads during the 23-day trip and serve as ambassadors for the sport, which is like lacrosse on horses.
“It’s really a fast-paced, exciting game for all ages,” said Molsky, a Germantown resident who began riding when she was 8. “You see little kids playing and old men playing. It’s a lot of fun.”
Balogh and Molsky, who both graduated from Poolesville High School this year, were introduced to the game through the Potomac Pony Club, which began offering polocrosse lessons about five years ago. Polocrosse seemed more exciting than such traditional horse sports as dressage or show jumping, Balogh and Molsky said, and they took to it immediately.
“I liked that it was more of a game,” said Balogh, who lives in Boyds and began riding when he was 4. “It’s a race or it’s jumping or showing your control over the horse.”
Polocrosse began in England as a way to exercise horses but developed as a sport in Australia in the 1930s, according to the American Polocrosse Association. Two teams of three compete on a 160-by-60-yard field, each player on horseback with a bamboo racquet. A match consists of four to six eight-minute periods called “chukkahs,” and the object is to throw the ball through the opposing team’s goal posts.
Balogh and Molsky practice several times a week and compete in national tournaments, which are nearly every weekend in the spring and fall. They were selected for the APA’s 31-member 2008 youth development team but had to separately apply for the Australian tour, according to the team’s coach, David Brooks of North Carolina.
The teens have been competing as part of the United States Pony Clubs’ regional polocrosse program, but members of the group’s Potomac Pony Club are starting a group this year: the Sugarloaf Mountain Polocrosse Club.
“We’re hoping the bug will catch on and it will start to snowball,” said Kathleen Balogh, Nick’s mother. There are 6,000 polocrosse players worldwide, according to the APA. The sport is slowly growing in the United States and is concentrated especially on the East Coast, Brooks said, where the number of tournaments has tripled over the past several years.
The Montgomery teens said they are unsure whether they will continue competing after going to college in the fall. Balogh will study engineering at Virginia Tech, and Molsky plans to pursue interior design at East Carolina University. But both have already sought out the closest barns to their respective campuses.
“It’s an addiction. It really is,” Molsky said. “You can’t get enough of it. It’s an adrenaline rush.”