Ten Questions Columnist Reena Gilani caught up with women’s polo player Ali Hoffman to discuss her travels around the world, her prized game belt and her distaste for chubby horses.
1. How did you get involved in polo?My mom got me involved in it when I was in seventh grade. My school had a team in Maryland and I was already riding horses at the time so she thought since I was kind of a rough and tumble kind of kid rather than a ballerina — even though I wanted to be, I was in dance class — that I should probably just stick to horses and stick to polo.Did you ever try any other sports? I tried basketball and I guess at 5-4 I didn’t really fit the bill for that. At one point when I got to campus they tried to get me to be a coxswain for crew but I didn’t actually go through with that. I’ve pretty much done everything … nothing really stuck with me except for the horse stuff.
2. Can you tell me about Camp Seafarer?I could go on about Camp Seafarer for hours but I think everyone would kill me. I worked there for five summers and I ran the sailing program down there; it’s this huge camp in North Carolina. I love it. It’s taught me everything I know, and I got my captain’s license out of it.Have you ever sailed anywhere exotic?No, I wish. But I did get the senior superlative in high school: “most likely to sail around the world”.What about places you’ve traveled in general? I went to South Africa and worked at the winery there for my international experience abroad for my major, international agriculture and rural development. I kind of worked the system in my favor. Most people go and do something that’s socially beneficial, like work at an orphanage. My take on it was to go work at a winery and get some experience in agriculture in a foreign country that way. It was really fun; I was there for about five and a half weeks over last winter break and it was great. How do they compare to wineries around here?They’re a lot fancier. The people that visit wineries in South Africa, especially during the winter months, are incredibly wealthy and spend pretty much all day doing wine tours. Take about the typical wine tour and then scale it up with some limousines and some very nice clothing.What kinds of things do you personally wear? I monogram everything; it’s kind of my signature. People at first I think were surprised by how many monogrammed items of clothing I have — sweatshirts, hats. For a while I was wearing those giant bows in my hair but I finally outgrew those at the age of 21.
3. Would you consider yourself to be superstitious?Somewhat, yes.Can you tell me about your game belt?I have this belt that my mom took about five years to needlepoint for me and I love it. It has little polo players on it and she tried to make it look like me in some of them. In high school I had this Lilly Pulitzer pink helmet and she needlepointed these little helmets on the belt. When she finally gave it to me for Christmas one year, she told me that if I didn’t wear it she would pretty much kill me because she had spent so much time working on it. I started wearing it pretty much religiously to games — it was a really cute belt too — and it became my signature thing to wear to games. I couldn’t find it right before the National championship game last year and I had a bit of a meltdown about it. I kept saying, “I can’t play without it. I need it, I need it,” and we had people running all around the barn looking for it. Did you find it before the game?Yeah, turns out I had stuffed it into the toe of one of my boots for safekeeping and I totally forgot about it. I found it probably two minutes before I had to get on the horse. I put it on and I was like hyperventilating in the corner. What is the thing that you always carry with you in your purse, whether it is to a polo match or to Alpha Phi formal?Sometimes I carry a pocketknife with me, but I’m not going to say the answer [my teammates] are looking for.
4. How did your interest in Honey Boo Boo develop?I love the show Toddlers & Tiaras, I’m just going to put that out there. It’s creepy for me to say that, but I get a lot of enjoyment from watching the parents because they’re so incredibly psychotic. The things that they make these kids do; it’s such a foreign world to me that I just find it so interesting. I’m not going to lie; I like the sparkly dresses and probably would have loved that as a little kid. That’s a draw too and I guess I’m sort of living vicariously through them. Anyway, I obviously watched the episode when Honey Boo Boo first appeared on the stage and it killed me. I thought it was the funniest thing. I thought the mannerisms of her mom, June, are just hilarious. So I’ve been watching since that.I’m told you “show belly” after games, what does that mean?It’s a weird mannerism of June. When she’s on stage, she tells her to show belly. June is a rather large woman and she grabs herself around the middle and starts rubbing herself. I did it only once as a joke and [junior teammate] Elizabeth LeBow likes to make it seem like I do it all the time. I think that’s a little excessive. Speaking of showing things to people, can you tell me about showing bruises on your butt to other people?vMy philosophy on life is that clothes could potentially be optional. Sometimes when I follow that I forget that other people don’t necessarily do that as well. I’m a little shameless in that sense in that I don’t really get embarrassed by much. I actually got this really huge bruise on my behind during one of the games, I don’t know what had happened, but it was gigantic. I couldn’t quite pinpoint the location of it and I thought it was higher up and closer to my tailbone than it was. I tried to inch down my pants a little bit and show it off but it just happened that they came down all the way and the bruise was actually a lot lower and more forward. There was a lot more exposure than I intended for that one, but no shame. And to clarify I didn’t do this in the middle of the barn, but more behind the lockers.
5. What kind of music do you like?I kind of like everything. The only type of music that I’m not really into is gospel-y, religious music. I’m fine with everything else … I’m not a huge hip-hop person but I’ll deal with it. I really like rap, though. That’s how I became good friends with my roommate Schuyler. I was in the basement of a house in Collegetown one night a couple of years ago and we both knew the words to Shaggy’s “Wasn’t Me”. She and I met and our eyes locked across the room because we were both sitting there, belting out the lyrics to that song. We came together in unison and realized we both really liked 90s rap and 90s pop music. It’s kind of my forte, I really like singing and I awkwardly know a lot of song lyrics in that regard.That’s a good skill to have.I hope so. Hopefully I’ll get a job because of it.
6. What are your thoughts on Charlie Sheen?I think he’s an interesting life model and he owns it. Were you ever inspired by any of his angrier or more outlandish tendencies?Was I inspired by his jumping on things? Yeah. I like to jump on things, so the couch jumping is totally something I would love to do. I wouldn’t be screaming at the same time, though.Can you explain to me the following quote: “If Ali isn’t happy, no one is happy.”It’s pretty self-explanatory. For the fellas at the barn, can you elaborate on what irritates you and what does not?Where does the list start? I like having fun. I think they think that I’m not a fun person. I like to make sure we get out of practice at a reasonable time and I think that that is a rea
sonable request, so it irritates me when they’re not doing work and we can’t get out on time. Honestly, I think it’s just them running around and being idiots with each other that irritates me the most. I can deal with it most other times but during practice I like them to get done in a timely fashion so I can get out and go do my work.
7. Are you picky about the horses that you ride?Yes. I don’t like fat horses. How did that start?[laughs] I don’t know, I just really don’t like riding the fat ones. They have their benefits because they’re the bigger ones and can sort of steamroll the other horses over. I know that I’m probably being biased about this, but I think that there’s just too much of them. It’s too hard to keep your legs around them and keep them going and get them to do what you want. They tend to disappoint you. I was told that you enjoy clipping the horses as part of your barn responsibilities, and will help out some of the lazier guys on the team. What is your price for doing the full body clippings? Interesting trades. My motto is “interesting trades are always accepted” and the boys pay me very well to do their dirty work for them.
8. So you do some of the commentary for the men’s games, right?Yeah, very colorful commentary. Freshman year when I got redshirted coach decided that I could be more useful than sitting on the side and yelling during the game so he put my delicate vocals to the test. Turns out I was actually pretty good so I’ve become a player and a bit of a sportscaster at the same time. I’ve been told by people on the sidelines, and not necessarily people that are related to me, that I definitely have a future in broadcasting if I want to. Would you consider that?Absolutely. I think it’d be fun. I might be a little too spazzy for TV but if it was for the radio it’d probably work out pretty well.Have you ever received any complaints for being too colorful in your commentary? Oh yeah. Sometimes I get glances shot at me from the powers that be saying to cool it. I have a tendency to shout out instructions, especially if our men’s team is playing, over the speaker. The polo world’s pretty small so we have a lot of friends on different teams, and sometimes I’ll start calling a foul if a guy on the other team starts to do something not-so-nice. I forget that I’m actually announcing so it’s a bit of an issue.
9. How do you take part in the men’s team’s tradition of “pulling their brains out”?You might want to ask [senior] Connor Pardell about his trip to Texas and his recreational activities if you want more background on that one. I don’t think that’s mine to divulge.Who on the team gives you the hardest time for not doing Adopt a Pony and showing up to work crews, but is still one of your favorite people?This is a very weighted question. If I could say all of them I would. Honestly, [senior Justin Schick] is the worst about it.If you could mount the most eligible bachelor on the team with one of your Phi sisters, who would it be?Also a very loaded question. I wouldn’t go near any of them with a 10-foot pole.
10. Where did you get the nickname “The Closer”?The guys used to bring me to Wings Over Ithaca with them to help polish off the platters of wings they would order. I’d always finish. If someone on the team were to take you on a date there, who would it be, what would you order, and what flavors would you want for the wings? It would be Connor Pardell. We would order a two-pounder version of wings, probably bone in. We like honey BBQ, golden BBQ, jet fuel, and the boys sometimes like Cajun. It would be a combination of two from those four but one of them has to be BBQ and one of them has to be buffalo. And we’d probably knock in a couple of barley sandwiches with that as well.
Original Author: Reena Gilani