Meet Anja Jacobs

By on Apr 5, 2019 in People

They say polo is the sport of kings. But in the case of Anja Jacobs and her teammates, make that the sport of queens.

Jacobs, an Atlanta-based Yardi senior manager for military housing, and three fellow mallet-wielding warrior women were recently crowned U.S. Open Women’s Polo Champions. Their March victory in Palm Beach, Florida was the result of a long year of hard work, long travel journeys, and rising above challenges.

Anja Jacobs riding Power Ranger Red in a polo match

Anja Jacobs riding Power Ranger Red in a polo match

Jacobs is the type of person who sets her mind on a goal and goes for it – both at work and in her personal life. About 15 years ago, she decided it was time to fulfill a lifelong dream: riding horses and playing competitive polo. Today, she has 13 horses in her backyard and devotes most of her free time to the sport.

“I had always wanted to ride horses as a kid, but I grew up in Miami, and there weren’t a lot of opportunities to do so,” said Jacobs, who has worked at Yardi for the last seven years. “After I’d graduated from college, I attended an alumni event that was hosted at a polo game, and I immediately knew I had to try it.”

First, she had to learn the rules of the game – which is basically high speed croquet on horseback.

“It looks like chaos if you ever try to watch a polo game without knowing the rules, but there are really strict rules that are all about safety. It looks like one of the most dangerous sports there is, but every rule is about the animals’ well-being first and foremost,” Jacobs said.

With a background in martial arts and ballroom dancing, she has both a killer instinct and sense of balance that are essential for a successful polo player. Jacobs is a defensive specialist, meaning that her role, and that of her horse, is to clear the field so her teammates can get to the goal.

“I’m a scrapper and a fighter,” Jacobs says of her efforts on the field. Her U.S. Open championship team also included Nina Clarkin, the No. 1 ranked women’s polo player in the world; Mia Cambiaso, a 15-year-old phenom in the sport, and Pamela Flanagan, who not only plays polo but is also an attorney and horse rescuer.

The group came together organically after Jacobs and Clarkin, who met at international polo events, struck up a friendship. Success in the sport is based on the player’s handicap level, which ranges from -2 to 10. Jacobs boasts a handicap of 2; Clarkin is rated a mixed 4 in the U.S. and a 10 on the Hurlingham Women’s scale in Great Britain, her home country. The U.S. Open Polo Championship does not require all players to be from the U.S. Flanagan and Jacobs are both U.S. citizens, while Cambiaso is from Argentina.

In countries like Argentina where polo is extremely popular, children learn the sport very young. Cambiaso was already playing competitive polo at age 5. And Jacobs’ favorite horse, Power Ranger Red, is also a former Argentinian who she purchased from a four-year-old Argentine boy.

“He is the most amazing horse. The reason I have 13 horses is because I bought Power Ranger Red, and then bought 12 more trying to find another horse like him,” said Jacobs. Power Ranger Red is her go-to starter, the first horse she rides in every polo match.

Atlanta may not have a huge polo community, but it is horse-friendly and there are many opportunities to learn to ride. That’s what Jacobs did when she decided to take up the sport 15 years ago. Two years ago, she purchased a 10-acre farm outside Atlanta so that her horses would have a great place to live.

When she’s not assisting Yardi’s military clients, Jacobs’ free time is occupied by exercising her herd of horses and preparing for the next polo match. The sport has taken her all over the world. She typically spends her Thanksgiving holidays in Argentina and hopes to travel to South Africa and Australia, playing matches in both countries, in the year to come.

“The thing I love most about polo is that you cannot think about anything else while you are playing. All the stress of the day disappears. It’s you and the horse, and that’s it,” Jacobs said.

We asked Jacobs what lessons from the polo field could be applied to her work life. She shared three great ones:

  • It’s all about the preparation. Whether you are getting ready for a polo match or a business meeting, preparedness is key. “That really does apply here as well,” Jacobs said. “It may be just a 30-minute client call, but it’s all about how you are preparing for it.” Collect the relevant information, familiarize yourself with the clients’ issues, and come in ready to discuss the concerns at hand.
  • Leave it on the field. “If something happens on the field that is negative, you can’t take it with you. Leave it on the field,” says Jacobs. The same maxim applies to the workplace. “If you have a negative meeting or a difficult client call, have a positive attitude and start fresh the next day.”
  • It’s a team effort. You can have the four best players in the world, but if you are not playing as a team, using each other’s strengths and weaknesses to create the best strategy possible, you are not going to win. It’s the same in business. We always create a better product when we work together.

She’s extremely grateful to Yardi for the support of its employees, both at work and in life.

“The culture here is unlike anywhere else. To have a company that can support you not only in your business and professional life but also in your personal life, that’s a really rare environment to find,” Jacobs said. When she took time off from work to compete in the tournament, her team and even the company’s executive leadership was there to back her up and make sure clients were supported in her absence.

What’s next for Jacobs on the polo field? It might mean another trip to Argentina. The Argentine Polo Open, in its 126th year in 2019, is considered the sport’s world championship.

“This year might be a little aggressive, but maybe next year,” Jacobs said. We’d have to agree that 2020 World Polo Champions has a nice ring to it.