Over the past several years, the United States Polo Association has built a talented communications department that is dedicated to marketing the sport of polo and highlighting USPA tournaments for members and fans. With his successful track record promoting the Flagler Museum in the Town of Palm Beach, Matthew Baran was brought on board, rising to the director of communications.
Baran, a native Floridian born and raised in Jupiter, works out of the USPA offices on Lake Worth Road next to the Museum of Polo and Hall of Fame, spearheading an ambitious program promoting polo across the nation.
“We built a state-of-the-art web site focusing on tournaments and presenting polo like other major sports. This was accomplished through interactive scoreboards, a tournament calendar and dedicated web pages with rosters, history, video highlights and much more,” Baran explained. “The department continually pushes to elevate coverage across all media platforms and outlets, highlighting team and player statistics, amazing plays, player quotes and horse information.”
This includes a wide array of streaming video content.
“In 2017, we created the USPA Polo Network, livestreaming more than 125 polo matches throughout the year for free, across uspolo.org, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter,” Baran said. “All games can also be viewed on-demand through our YouTube channel or uspolo.org/video.”
When not working, Baran enjoys surfing or swimming at the beach, playing tennis, visiting local art shows, and hanging out with his family and friends.
“Ironically, I do not ride or play polo,” Baran said. “I grew up playing baseball, basketball and football, and received a scholarship to play baseball. My background in sports has helped with re-branding our digital platforms to cover polo like other major sports.”
While not a polo player, Baran is passionate about the sport with deep roots in Wellington. “Polo is one of the world’s oldest team sports that can be enjoyed by all ages, male or female,” Baran said. “There are approximately 270 USPA member clubs throughout the United States, and about 15 here in the Wellington area.”
It is an impressive sport, and he is certainly a polo fan.
“I continue to be mesmerized every time I watch polo,” Baran said. “The athleticism and hand-eye coordination of the professional players is something everyone must witness live. I would put it on par with hitting a 95-plus mph fastball in baseball, which has been described as the most difficult feat in sports. Players are riding flat out on the most agile horses in the world, bumping into other players and horses, all the while hitting a small ball through a goal with a bamboo mallet. The incredible precision in the goals and team play is what continually makes me revere the sport and push to get polo out to the masses.”
Baran believes that Wellington provides the opportunity to witness one of the most epic team sports anywhere in the world, and he invites area residents to, “get out and experience something new.”
To bring in more players to the sport, the USPA launched a “Learn to Play” campaign, which provides a platform for all member clubs to have a strong presence at uspolo.org.
“Whether you are interested in picking up a mallet and learning to play, or would like to watch some of the top players and horses compete in a USPA tournament, you can visit uspolo.org for more information,” Baran said. “And if you are in the Wellington area, you have to come watch a match of the Gauntlet of Polo at the International Polo Club Palm Beach. The level of competition and horses is unrivaled anywhere in the United States.”
The Gauntlet of Polo is comprised of America’s most historic and prestigious tournaments: the C.V. Whitney Cup, the USPA Gold Cup and the U.S. Open Polo Championship. “There is $1 million on the line, and the tournament series features 16 teams and more than 800 horses competing for a chance to be crowned Gauntlet Champion,” Baran said.
All the work that Baran is doing is directly in line with the longstanding mission of the USPA.
“The USPA was organized and exists for the purposes of promoting the game of polo; coordinating the activities of its member clubs and registered players; arranging and supervising polo tournaments, competitions and games; and providing rules, handicaps and conditions for those tournaments, competitions and games, including the safety and welfare of participants and mounts,” Baran explained.
Founded in 1890, the USPA is the national governing body for the sport of polo. With thousands of individual members, the USPA oversees 40 national tournaments. For more information, visit www.uspolo.org or call (800) 232-8772.