Barbara Frost got involved with polo the old-fashioned way.
Her mother signed her up at school without telling her.
"I was not too pleased," recalls the Fallston resident and seniorat Garrison Forest in Owings Mills. "I didn't want to play polo."
However, the move proved to be a case of mother knows best.
Frost, 17, quickly picked up the nuances of the game and the horsemanship skills needed. And she's emerged as a major force in the Grizzlies taking the national championship in high school polo in the U.S. Polo Association's National Interscholastic Women's Tournament March 16-22 at the University of Virginia.
Just before she was to start her sophomore year at Garrison Forest, Frost learned that her mother, Theodosia Ewers, had signed her up for polo lessons. Before long, Frost was on the Grizzlies' third team (a level below junior varsity). She stuck with the sport, making the varsity squad this season.
Needlessto say, polo has won Frost over.
"I probably could not tell you today why I like it so much," said Frost, an honor student, a NationalMerit Scholarship finalist last fall and a winner of a National Council of Teachers of English Achievement Award for writing.
"It's fun. I knew I was getting better fairly quickly."
Polo is played much like ice hockey, but without a goalie. Three players are on each team and frequently interchange positions on the field, which are 100 yards long and 50 yards wide. Players use mallets to whack a ball toward the opponent's goal.
Garrison Forest coach Cindy Halle said Frost was a very strong rider, which aided her transition to polo.
And, Halle said, Frost's stubbornness proved a plus on the field.
"She was stubborn and a perfectionist, which sometimes worked to her disadvantage," said Halle. "She ended up using it to her advantage, because she was extremely tenacious to play against, and no one intimidated her."
Frost, who received the school's Most Improved Player award in her sophomore year, put her strong offensive skills to work this season for the Grizzlies. Take the national title game for example:
In the 15-10 victory over Shallowbrook (Conn.), a club team, Frost scored seven goals.
And in the Grizzlies' semifinal victory, a 24-1 whipping of Kent School (Conn.), Frost nailed four goals.
Frost says one reason for her success this year is confidence in her offensive abilities.
In indoor polo -- which is what most high schoolteams play -- there are three positions, called the one, two and three positions.
Frost plays the one position, which she describes asone who "should be on offense more, technically."
This year, Frost was often on the offensive. For example, in her team's 13-12 loss to Valley Forge (Pa.) Military Academy, Frost scored 10 goals.
Valley Forge, by the way, is an all-boys team. And, Frost said with a laugh, the school's coach seemed a tad upset at the possibility of his young men losing to young women.
"They were sweating," she said.
The Grizzlies were used to the pressure of playing an all-boys squad. They often play all-men's college teams due to a dearth of high school competition in the Baltimore area,
Frost's edge on the field may be due, in part, to her horsemanship skills. Horses have been a part of her life she was a child. She recalls that as a very young girl, she wanted to ride horses whenever an opportunity arose.
A dreamcome true when her grandfather gave her a horse a few years ago. Frost rode the horse, named Penny, frequently. Eventually she became involved with show riding on Garrison Forest horses.
Frost was familiar with polo. She'd watched her grandfather play the sport, and whilethe game interested her, she wasn't moved to take it up. Her mother had other ideas. The rest, as they say, is history.
Frost hopes toattend either Cornell or Virginia next year with an eye on a veterinary career. She also hopes to play college polo.
Over the summer, she'll play with the Maryland Polo Club.