When the Work to Ride program founded the nation's first black polo team in 1999, the goal was simply to help disadvantaged kids from Philadelphia improve themselves through activities centered around horsemanship, equine sports and education.
Thirteen years later the team, made up of kids who defy the sport's privileged stereotype, has captured a national championship for the second year in a row.
In a sport associated more with royalty and the well-to-do suburban country club set than the inner city, a team of black kids from Philadelphia reign supreme.
On Sunday, a team from Philadelphia's Work to Ride polo program captured the United States Polo Association Tournament Championship in Charlottesville, Va., taking the crown for the second consecutive year.
They defeated a team from Palm Springs, California's El Dorado Polo Club 20 to 19 in a nail-biting arena polo shootout.
"The kids we played were the children of professional polo players," Lezlie Hiner, Ride to Work's executive director, told BlackAmericaWeb.com.
"For us, it's about talent. A lot of it is the will to win, that type of thing, and athleticism," she added. "My kids know how to ride horses; they have good hand-eye coordination. They've learned the basics, the basics get drilled into them constantly. They have the desire to get better, and they take pride in that."
Work to Ride shocked the polo world last year when it fielded the first all-black team to win the championship. This year, shock turned to awe as Work to Ride entered the tournament as the team to beat …
Polo is considered a rich man's game. The cost of a horse, equipment and travel (with the horse) is daunting. Hiner created Work to Ride, a non-profit organization, in 1994 to help disadvantaged Philadelphia youth ages seven to 19 improve themselves through activities centered around horsemanship, equine sports and education.
"I don't care if I'm not rich. I don't care if my mother's single. I don't care what I don't have," Work to Ride participant Kenshaun Walker told CNN. "I'm willing to do anything in life to make it to the pros in polo."
Read more at BlackAmericaWeb.