Alyssa Daniels started attending the University of Wisconsin-Madison assuming she would spend her college years as a normal student. Then everything changed when horses entered the picture. Alyssa had been around horses nearly her entire life and could not believe that UW-Madison had a polo club.
“A friend of mine on Facebook posted a status like ‘Oh, I’m so excited to join the polo team‘. I called my mom and I was like, ‘Mom you won’t believe this!’,” Alyssa said.
Alyssa has experience playing polo on a national championship high school team and is used to the hard work of caring for polo horses. Despite her previous experience competing on horseback, Alyssa admits to still getting nervous before matches.
“Before big games I always have butterflies in my stomach. I definitely feel the nerves. There’s a lot of times where you either get the ball and you score right away or the other team does the exact same thing,” Alyssa said.
Alyssa believes the key to being a good polo player and team captain is knowing your teammates inside and out. Alyssa’s leadership also seem to be working out for the UW-Madison polo club, which was founded in 2014.
“Everyone’s been really shocked at how fast we’ve grown as a program,” Alyssa said. “It’s been really amazing. We’ve only been a team for three years and every year we’ve gone straight to regionals.”
Polo has been nicknamed the ‘sport of kings‘ due to its reputation as being a sport only for the wealth, something Alyssa does not believe is true.
“When it first started, I believe only the wealthiest people were playing and watching because you have to have at least 7 horses to play outdoors,” Alyssa said. “You don’t need to be a wealthy individual to play. I think that’s probably the biggest misconception. I think anyone, if they want to play can play. There are programs all over the country and in Wisconsin that you can start at not even knowing how to ride.”
In between polo practice, classes and homework Alyssa finds time to escape to a farm south of campus near Oregon where she tends to her own horse named Owen. The cadence at the farm is a lot slower and serves as a place where Alyssa can go and ride to forget about the stress of school and competition.
Alyssa is currently studying animal science and is hoping to become a veterinarian someday. She is grateful her college experience gave her an opportunity to continue her polo playing career.
“It’s a sport that I love so much at a school that I love so much. It’s really made everything come together for my college experience,” Alyssa said.