First Black Polo Team Wins National Title
African-Americans are making their presence known in almost every sport, and the Cowtown Work to Ride polo team has added another one to the list.
Based out of Philadelphia, the Cowtown Work to Ride team won the 42nd annual USPA National Interscholastic Championship tournament on Sunday. Not only did this team become national champions, they became trailblazers in the process. The Work to Ride team is the first African-American polo team in the nation and became the only one to win a national title on Sunday in Charlottesville, Va.
Created in 1994 by Lezlie Hiner, Work to Ride is a non-profit program that provides inner-city Philadelphia youth the chance to engage in constructive activities centered on horsemanship, equine sports and education. The program consists of kids ranging from 7 to 19 years of age and is now receiving attention after earning the national title.
“It was an unreal feeling after that buzzer sounded,” 18-year-old team captain Kareem Rosser said. “I imagined jumping off my horse and embracing the closest person next to me. It’s just a feeling not everyone in the world gets to feel, and it’s a moment I’ll never forget.”
Rosser has been on the team for 11 years and is a senior at Valley Forge Military Academy in Wayne, Pa. He’s started a legacy not just in polo, but also in his family. Kareem’s brother, Daymar Rosser, 16, has been on the team for eight years and became interested in the team after watching his older brothers.
“[Winning the title] was a very good feeling,” Daymar said. “My brothers were happy and also my coach was happy and giving us hugs and crying.”
The team has been featured on HBO’s “Real Sports” and twice in Sports Illustrated, but since winning the title the team has reached new heights.
“I woke up the next morning feeling great, knowing that I’m a national champion,” Kareem said. “We’re not just average national champions; we’re one of a kind so it feels really special.”
As a non-profit organization, Work to Ride struggles at times with funding but has persevered through obstacles to reach its ultimate goal.
“One of the most challenging obstacles is us not having an indoor arena,” Daymar said.
Brandon Rease, 15, is a teammate of the Rosser’s and attends the Academy at Palumbo High School in Philadelphia. He expressed that their challenges have not stopped them from reaching their goal.
“I don’t think we had too many obstacles,” Rease said. “But riding on horses we didn’t know and playing the game was one of the most challenging. Without a good horse, you can’t show all your skills.”
Rease grew up in the same neighborhood as the Rosser brothers and became interested in polo after seeing them in the Work to Ride program.
“I just started coming to the horse stable every Saturday, and it took off from there,” he said. “Now we have a national title.”
The most non-chalant of the three, Rease claims winning the national title hasn’t fully sunken in yet. “Overall it was a great feeling to accomplish something and be the first to win as the first African-American team,” he said. “It didn’t really affect me at the time, but I’m sure it will eventually.”
The team credits their coach and the creator of the program with motivating them to win.
“She was there to help us out with games, made sure she helped us academically and made sure we had everything we needed to play,” Rease said.
Kareem added to Rease’s sentiments. “Lezlie is a very caring lady,” Kareem said. “She has nothing but good intentions and is like a second mother to us. She is a perfect example of perseverance and a one-of-a-kind woman that I will always look up to.”
These trailblazers don’t plan to stop anytime soon. All plan to play polo in college. Rease is looking to attend Georgetown University and Daymar hopes to attend the University of Virginia while his older brother Kareem has his eyes set on the Ivy League.