Polo Legend Nacho Figueras is Coaching His Kids to Replace Him
by Greg Hutton
Just when we thought the winter was coming to a close, the 2017 Snow Polo International was held over a chilly March weekend at Mont Tremblant, Quebec. Hosted by the Ralph Lauren Polo Blue team, the Bay Street Bull was on hand to take in the sights and sounds of the prestigious event.
Watching from the VIP tent and private box, guests of Ralph Lauren Polo Blue enjoyed seafood paella and champagne while they cheered on the team, including captain and Polo Blue ambassador, Nacho Figueras. Despite temperatures reaching as low as -30° C, Figueras and his team brought home the gold, ending the weekend on a chilly but victorious note. We spoke to Figueras about raising a family, his future in polo and his passion for horses.
How do you balance you international modelling and sporting career with being a family man?
The most important or best thing I have in my life is my family. I've been very lucky to find the woman of my life at a very early stage of my life. I was 20 and she was 17 when we met and a year later we had a kid. So I have four kids and one is already 17 and he's playing polo. Finding a family at a very early stage in my life gave me a lot of focus. I've always said, no matter what I do, I'm always going to put my family first. My polo career and the horses and everything around the sport of polo is my biggest passion, what I love doing the most. My family love horses and ride horses together and we breed horses together. My 17-year-old boy is already playing polo professionally. My daughter Andelfi plays a little and the little girl rides. It's not been hard because we as a family love polo. The third leg, which is my relationship with Ralph Lauren has been seventeen years now, it's also about that. The reason why this relationship has been so long is because I don't work for a brand, I work for a man that I really like and respect, who's Ralph. He's also very passionate and family is his most important assets; he says that all the time and you can see it. We share all those values. The brand, polo and what they stand for are pretty much the same values that I have and that my family has. It's really not been a thing that I have to think about making it happen. It's just very organic and it just works. It's not an effort that I make. I love my family, I love what I do and I do it with my family; we'll travel together and then the Ralph connection is just very organic.
Do you wish your children would follow in your footsteps?
If they love it and that's what they are are passionate about doing, then 100 per cent. If they want to play violin, then I will be 100 per cent supportive of that. The natural thing for them would be to follow it. Not because I asked them to or because I push them to. It's only because that's what they do, that's what they love. I know they love it, it's inside them. My 17-year-old boy loves it, he's very into it and very focused on his career at a very young age which is great because in today's world, it's so easy for a young kid to get distracted, unfocused and in trouble. I really think that horses have that magical ability to keep your kids out of trouble. I don’t know. There's something about the horse.
Yes, yes. It's proven, it's a fact. I feel very blessed that I have a 17-year-old boy who is thinking about his list of horses for his next match. Of course he goes out with his friends and has fun. But, he had a purpose. The next day he has to wake up, play polo and be alert. In today's world when so many bad things come and grab your kid, it's a wonderful thing. I think [the same of] sports in general.
How has your team prepared for today?
The polo world is small. So I know a lot of these guys that are playing here from previous games or life. I played with them in Toronto a few years ago. It's not a very big world, so we all know each other. But I really came here because of Ralph Lauren sponsoring the event and they asked me to come here and support the event and support the brand that supports me. I'm here to support polo because I love polo and I think this is an event that brings attention to polo in Canada. I played the horses that I played yesterday for the first time. I would be lying to you if I told you that we have prepared as a team. When you become an experienced rider, like I guess I am, then you know right away when you get on a horse what you have and what you are going to be able to do. And then we talked about the strategy before the game. I know how the other guys play so I know what I need to do, or think I know what I need to do. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't.
Is the experience different on the snow?
It is different. But for a first time spectator, it's fun because it's small. The field is smaller than the proper big grass field so you get to be on top of the action more. The ball is orange so you cal really see it. When you're not used to watching polo and you're watching polo for the first time, you go to a big field and the ball is smaller and white. So, I think for first time spectators, snow polo is great. And it's also beautiful; you have the snow, the mountains. It's a good overall experience.
How does Ralph Lauren tie into the polo lifestyle?
It's such an organic thing. Ralph, 50 years ago, had a vision and a dream. He wanted to create a beautiful brand that stands for all our lifestyle and heritage and he saw that the sport of polo embraced all of those values that he thought were important to his brand. For me, the sport of polo is all the things that the brand stands for. It's elegant, the heritage is a traditional thing, it's something that is timeless. Polo is a very old sport, it's very classic, very elegant. He was very smart, he chose a word and a sport and a logo that really simplifies and synthesizes all of the things that he thought were important. For me, I grew up riding and playing polo, I grew up admiring this [Picks up a bottle of Ralph Lauren Polo Blue]. When I was growing up, I said, 'Look! This is so cool!' I liked the brand because I liked the guy, I liked the logo. It's cool, thirty years later for me to be so in contact with the brand.
What are your favourite elements of Polo Blue?
The idea here was, Polo Blue is a lot fresher and it's for the day. If you go play polo, you go ride horses, you go to the beach or out for a walk, it's Polo Blue. And then, Polo Blue Eau de Parfum, it's much stronger, bolder, more elegant and a bigger statement. So this is at night, when you come back from your polo game, you put on your jacket, you put on Blue Eau de Parfum. The idea was, of the world of Polo fragrances to create fragrances that you love but also that come with you and support you for different times of the day. The eau de parfum is great but its strong. Breakfast at 9 with the eau de parfum is a big statement but some people like it.
What's next for you in Polo?
I just finished building a beautiful stable in Argentina which I think is a big statement from a design standpoint. My son is trying to play polo professionally so that's a big focus in my life right now to support him and help h become a great polo player. In a way it's a big advantage [to have me around], in another way, it's a little bit of pressure. As a parent it's very difficult to decide how much pressure you put or you don't. Sometimes you don't know if you're being too tough or you're being too easy. It's a very fine line. And in sports, the head plays a very big part, so it's not just talent. Working hard, talent and having the head and drive to be the best in whatever thing you do, that's even harder. That's what separates failure from the rest. It's sweat, it's talent, but then he has the mental edge. That's something that you build, you form and you create. For a father, it's very hard to manage, how do I help my son have that mental edge? Sometimes I think the best thing is to let him figure it out himself. But you realize that he's so young, I've seen it all and you realize that you can help him figure things out faster that will help him become a better player faster.
Have you thought about life after polo?
I think I'm stuck with it forever. I think I have five or seven more years where I can still do what I did yesterday. And then, it's going to go downtown from there. I'm ready and my kids are ready. It will be a natural for me to let go. The adrenaline that I get from competition, 100 per cent gets transported too. I get more nervous when Hilario plays than when I play. In a good way. I am more psyched and pumped by him then by me. When I get to a field, I love to play, I love to win, I love to do well, but when I have a game tonight, I go to sleep and I go to sleep well. When he has to play, sometimes I can't sleep. That will be a natural transition of my career. He's playing horses that we bred. It's not just him playing. It's him and the horses that we bred. I didn't grow up with that. I grew up playing polo on whatever horse I could get, it was different. Hopefully, I continue to work with this brand that I love. I hope that I can still give them something. I'll have more grey hair but Photoshop does it all. Breeding the horses, travelling and promoting the sport. I think I have a long way to go. I don't stand still, I'll find things to do, always around my family, polo, horses and hopefully Ralph