There was a time when “polo” was just a label that black teens coveted, without even imagining they could partake in the elegant, athletic lifestyle the brand represents. Now a young group of black men from Philadelphia – and the female coach that leads the team – are showing the world that African American teenagers can exemplify the polo lifestyle, not just purchase the image. Web site Philly.com reports:

Philadelphia is home to a new national champion.

The Cowtown/Work to Ride polo team, which is based in Fairmount Park, won the 42d annual USPA National Interscholastic Championship tournament Sunday in Charlottesville, Va.

“It was awesome,” Cowtown/WTR coach Lezlie Hiner said of her team’s 24-17 victory over Baltimore in the title game at the University of Virginia’s indoor polo facility.

Cowtown/WTR became the first all-black team to win the national championship. The team, which entered the tournament as the second seed, includes brothers Kareem Rosser, 18, and Daymar Rosser, 16, of West Philadelphia, and Brandon Rease, 15, of North Philadelphia. […]

Hiner said Kareem Rosser, who attends Valley Forge Military Academy with his younger brother and has his sights set on attending Cornell next year, was named the “No. 1 all-star” at the competition.

Coach Hiner “started the Work To Ride program in 1994 as a way to help underprivileged children from Philadelphia,” according to Philly.com. But clearly her program has become much more than that. Through her efforts, Hiner has taken her students to compete in other states and even traveled with them to Nigeria, completely expanding their horizons through travel, which helps young minds formulate higher goals. Hiner has also created another avenue for black students to attend high-end colleges through honing sports abilities that make them attractive to exclusive schools like Cornell. Plus, the aura of respectability surrounding polo, mixed with a tradition of gracefulness similar to golf, teaches the young men under her tutelage a set of refined social skills that will help them manage their careers from their first positions through promotion to executive board rooms.

Hiner’s vision and leadership are praiseworthy, but in the end, it is the dedication, hard work and discipline of her all African-American team that earned these boys the national trophy, making them new heroes for the black community and beyond.

The Cowtown/Work to Ride polo team is not only representing Philly with their historic win. These young men are also role models for the world, showing other black youth and the people who believe in them that African American teens achieve great things when mentors and elders invest in them. At a time when black men are failing in our criminally negligent public schools, their win sparks the heart with a vital glimmer of realistic hope.

Black youths can and do come out on top when educators work to serve them. African Americans teens then don’t have to buy the “polo” image of excellence – they can be it.

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  • ibjme

    I have always felt that when our youths are exposed to sports and activities outside the “normal urban” past-times (ie basketball, football, thugging, etc), we unlock new doors for potential growth and expansion. Kudos to the team for having the courage to try something different and subsequently succeeding! And kudos to the coaches for presenting them with the opportunity! May we all experience continual growth and blessings!

  • lee

    amazing article! thanks for posting!