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Association Croquet Regeneration

Recommended Actions to Help Clubs and Federations Generate More Interest in Association Croquet

The CA set up a Working Party to recommend actions to help clubs generate more interest in Association Croquet.

The Working Party focused their attention on the identification of successful and less-than-successful practices. The various practices were discussed and this list of recommendations created. The working party report was approved by CA Council in March 2013, and these web pages created from it.

Summary

The big message to all clubs promoting AC is: Keep it simple in the early stages:

  1. Start with Garden Croquet and/or other simple options such as One-Ball, spend 15 minutes briefing them and then get them playing. Wherever possible start them on half lawns.
  2. Do not start with a series of courses covering all the jargon of full-blooded AC. Do not start them on full lawns. These will frighten off many potential recruits.
  3. To each new recruit, assign a mentor who can guide them through bite-sized modules - demonstrating and actioning practice routines and skills tests. Get the recruits to self-monitor their skills tests and measure their improvement.
  4. Introduce them to competitive play with 14-point singles and alternate-stroke doubles; the later with a mentor as a partner.
  5. Ensure that when high-bisquers play, they each have plenty of bisques so that the game can be completed within the time limit.

For the CA:

  1. To capture new recruits, consider entering into a long-term partnership with equipment manufacturers to create a National Garden Croquet challenge. Part of that deal being that the equipment manufacturers place in all new sets a set of the CA Garden Croquet rules and a leaflet promoting the CA.
  2. Encourage more Federations to promote full-bisque games played on half-size lawns. Encourage the CA nationally to find ways of supporting full-bisque games on half-size lawns
  3. In conjunction with the Coaching Committee, publish a series of articles on the basic principles outlined above with the aim of these being adopted by all CA member clubs.
  4. Launch an AC equivalent of the GC Grass Roots/ Centre stage events.

Detailed Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Approach and Methodology
  3. Identification of successful and less successful practices
    1. Garden Croquet
    2. Short Croquet
    3. Other considerations
  4. Conclusions
    1. Starting
    2. Developing
  5. Recommendations

Appendices

I. Composition of the Working Party
II. The Official Rules of Garden Croquet
III. Target Croquet
IV. Practice Routines for AC Beginners
V. Short Croquet Handicap Card (PDF)
VI. Croquet Skills Tests Record Card (PDF), Croquet Skills Tests

1. Introduction

The Working Party was set up arising from the results of the 2012 Croquet Association Survey. It showed that new recruits were predominantly playing GC. If this trend continues, the future of Association Croquet could be seriously undermined.

The Working Party was appointed in December 2012 with the following brief:

To recommend actions to help Federations and Clubs generate more interest in Association Croquet. It is the intention that good practices should be published in the Gazette and on the CA and other websites

2. Approach and Methodology

The Working Party was structured to create a group that represented the whole domain combining experience at various levels of the game from club to international level.

The predominant communication medium used was email. The Working Party focused on identifying successful and not so successful practices.

From this discussion and analysis, a list of recommended actions has been produced for the use of Federations and Clubs and for publication in the Gazette and on the CA website.

3. Identification of Successful and Less Successful Practices

Listed below is a summary of the working party's discussions. Extracts from actual quotes have been used and only amended to depersonalise them.

3.1 Garden Croquet

3.1.1 "The world-wide Garden Croquet rules were designed to explain the game in a simple way and provide a progression from a simple introductory game to more demanding variants.

Often we expect people have to learn a new language (rush, bisque, Rover, pivot ball etc.) as well as a new game. I have direct experience of introducing AC to GC players. I took four GC players who knew nothing about AC. A 15 minute explanation plus a game of doubles 14-point on a short lawn - All finished in 2 hours".

3.1.2 "We need to get potential recruits to AC playing a game very quickly and not saying they need a six week coaching course before they can play."

3.1.3 "Encourage Federations to run Short Croquet events".

3.1.4 "Last year I started my own club at ... offering Garden Croquet using the excellent CA Garden Croquet rules. This is great for adults because the rules can be learnt in a few minutes. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to understand that if you hit another ball you get another go, a croquet shot and a continuation. So my beginners start playing a doubles game with just 10 minutes instruction. Everyone learns AC in a simplified form, at this club GC means Garden Croquet. With youngsters, I play a very simple game in which each player runs the hoops in order - gaining a free shot when they run a hoop. I use a handicap system in which I might have to run 18 hoops before they run 6. This works really well and they can measure their improvement. There are lots of variations that kids enjoy and the CA's (potential) 7000 members should be introducing this to their young relatives. If kids are attracted to croquet through competition (as outlined above), some will want to play competitive versions of the proper game as they grow up. "

3.1.5 "At my club, beginners always start on a small lawn (and indeed are encouraged to stay there until they have mastered the art of a 4-ball break there)... I agree that the traditional tuition is far too long-winded and progress towards a meaningful game too slow. I am very keen to try Garden Croquet with some beginners ..."

3.1.6 "... garden croquet approach is the perfect way to build a social atmosphere whilst still promoting AC. Even if very few of the members take to playing AC competitively ..."

3.1.7 "I like the idea of recruiting Garden Croquet players to be members of the CA".

3.1.8 "I believe we should go into partnership with Jacques for a National Garden Croquet Tournament and use our Office resources to manage it.

3.1.9 "Promote the CA through all garden sets sold in the UK and put in our Garden Croquet rules".

3.2 Short Croquet

3.2.1 "I believe that teaching/coaching beginners on a small court and then quickly introduce them to Short Croquet is the way forward with the promotion of Association Croquet"... "The traditional way of coaching beginners with Association croquet is, in my opinion, is much too long winded. Some clubs also wait until the end of a player's first season before adjusting their handicap when, if the beginners were encouraged to play competitively after a couple of weeks, the improvement would be much greater and handicaps could be adjusted accordingly with perceived encouragement.

I believe that, with good coaching, a beginner should be able to have a competitive Short Croquet game within two weeks."

3.2.2 "It has certainly been my experience that expecting participants to start on a full size lawn, when they don't have the technique honed to send a ball from one end to the other, let alone from corner to corner, can be quite demoralising and not conducive to returning the following week, unless they are particularly committed. I believe we need to enthuse people enough that they want to play. GC is a good introduction to technique and can provide a competitive, social and challenging game. My personal perspective is that AC provides an intellectual challenge on top of these characteristics of the game. To this end, I think that the use of half-size lawns, Garden Croquet on any sort of surface and some of the 'Gymkhana' events are useful ways of introducing the challenge. I particularly like half-size lawns as they allow novice players to establish confidence in their tactical ability e.g. maintaining a 4-ball break, etc."

3.2.3 "We have always taught beginners on small lawns and the games in their first season are always 14-point with at least 10 bisques each".

3.2.4 "Short Croquet with full-bisques helps players visualise the shape of the game better than on a full lawn and the use of bisques encourages break-building. Some players enjoy alternate stroke doubles and this can be modified to allow 1 player to approach and complete a hoop, with input from the other, before changing players for the next hoop."

3.3 Other Considerations

3.3.1 "Coaching AC by hovering around a new player (or GC player) and explaining every shot is a waste of time. The sooner new players are taught simple routines they can practice (and enjoy practising) the better."

3.3.2 "Breaking AC coaching/practice down into bite-size chunks that new players can practice (either on their own or competitively) might work. Tests of skill that can be done very quickly and that allow players to record their progress (i.e. 10 Roquets from different positions, 10 rushes, 10 split-shots, 10 rolls of various ratios, how many hoops can be made with a 4-ball and 3-ball break). These could be presented on cards to introduce the skill and explain the value of it."

3.3.3 "More 14-point or time-limited AC games should be played and this should be seen as the norm for anyone taking AC up. The idea of a 3 or 4 hour game is far too off-putting for new/GC players. I find the idea of a 3 hour game extremely off-putting."

3.3.4 "I agree with comments about the benefits of playing 14-point games (which are over in an hour or hour and a half.) That's more in keeping with modern life than 3 hour games which end on time!"

3.3.5 "For me there are 2 equally valid approaches for new players:

Garden Croquet, with the fastest developers having mentors

GC with a mentor who does his/her very best to introduce and promote AC

And I am strongly in favour of mentors using bite-size modules and skills testing."

3.3.6 "Something else which I think needs to be addressed is the way beginners are encouraged (or choose) to play. I know certain clubs tell beginners to play games using handicap difference as oppose to full or partial bisque allocation. Thus, when two 24 handicaps play neither receives any bisques and the resulting game is about as tedious as you could imagine. I have witnessed this at ... where two high handicap beginners played for almost an hour without running any hoops and getting increasingly frustrated. When I noticed this was going on, I insisted that they at least use half bisques, after which they were able to makes breaks and enjoy the game. I think some of this reluctance to use bisques stems from the mind-set that social games should not be competitive and therefore there's no need for anyone to have bisques. When beginners start playing they should be encouraged to use as many bisques as they need (even as many as one per turn or hoop)."

3.3.7 "We need to make sure the right people are available to oversee any sessions. If the wrong people get involved AC can appear to be a very tedious and over-complicated game."

3.3.8 "I think you can play and have a good game of simple AC with exactly the same strokes as GC. All you need are three strokes:

1. hoop running

2. rushing (or as it is in GC clearing)

3. A take-off for the croquet stroke (positioning as it is in GC)

All effectively single ball shots. That's enough to have a good game of AC. The more varied shots when taking croquet are better left for introduction later."

3.3.9 I've been trying to look again at croquet for groups, to introduce AC. 10-minute croquet might work, as 4 players are involved, even if only 2 play at a time. (On a short lawn, the 4-balls are placed 1 yard, N, E, S, and W from the peg. Using alternate stroke doubles, start with any ball and make as many hoops as possible in 10 minutes. The 2 out players keep the time and record how many extra turns are used to continue the break. Each hoop counts 2 points with each extra turn being a single subtracted point. The partnerships would change over for the 2nd 10 minutes, the highest scoring pair being the winners, of course.) All the group would need to know, to start, is hoop- running, roquets and take-offs. It might end up as a version of one-ball if the players don't hit anything and just go for a hoop; but if there are club members helping (at least 1 per 4 players), more adventurous play can be encouraged.

3.3.10 Coaches maybe interested in mentoring/personal development planning and this could give increased competence in the approach to coaching. This should be incorporated in the AC development plan - not another path, which confuses our main focus.

3.3.11 "Target Croquet is something I believe would be beneficial for clubs to introduce to new players. The reason I like it is because it's something that new players can pick up and play (competitively) very quickly. The rules are not dissimilar to those of other games they will already know how to play and it introduces the croquet stroke in a variety of different forms very early on in the game. The intention isn't that it takes the place of garden croquet, Short Croquet or one-ball. It's just something I think can be introduced extremely quickly and which will appeal".

3.3.12 "It occurs to me that when most players join a club they are given a GC handicap and handicap card. Either as a result of doing the CA prescribed 6-hoop exercise, or just being assigned the highest possible handicap. New players never get given an AC card or handicap. This is fundamentally wrong and it's hardly surprising that these players then focus on GC. Every player should be given an AC card and AC handicap as a matter of course".

3.3.13 "What about starting up the Grass Roots/Centre Stage scheme for AC? (It seems a little self-defeating to have this system for GC but not AC)."

3.3.14 "More content on the CA website and in the Croquet Gazette aimed at new players".

3.3.15 "There are many attractions to competitive play if it is introduced quickly to new players, so that implies that we need to be innovative in our managing of coaching and also in the variations in the games we offer. To this extent, I am in favour of both short lawn and one-ball as stepping-stones to full lawn handicap play. Equally, we should not be hung up on the dictate around 'coaching from the side-lines' when playing these games. New players benefit from and are pleased to receive tactical advice during a game. The supervised tournament that the Academy runs is a good example of this and receives widespread support. We need to consider how we introduce the AC game and encourage clubs to deliver this..."

4. Conclusions

4.1 Starting

  1. When they start - keep it simple
  2. Garden Croquet is a good game as a starter
  3. Other options to introduce early can be:
    • Target Croquet
    • One-ball
    • 10-minute croquet
  4. Start beginners with Short Croquet and on half-size lawns
  5. Don't crowd them with jargon (roquet, croquet, rush etc.)
  6. Get them playing a game quickly
  7. Don't frighten them with talk of "x" week courses
  8. Make sure coaching is neither tedious nor over-complicated
  9. Assign a mentor to each new recruit
  10. Create a closer working relationship with Jacques

4.2 Developing

  1. Introduce handicapping principles at an early stage
  2. Ensure both sides are playing with bisques to full handicap or a base.
  3. Issue handicap cards early on and get new recruits to record their games even if the system is internal to the club.
  4. Initially stick to 10-14-point games
  5. Establish practice and skill routines at an early stage
  6. Keep these routines in bite-sized chunks
  7. Get recruits to self-monitor their skills tests and share the results with their mentor
  8. Introduce them to Alternate Stroke doubles using competent partners
  9. Encourage more Federations to run Short Croquet events
  10. Introduce grass roots/centre stage events for AC

5. Recommendations

5.1 Issue this report to the CA Management Committee for adoption by Council

5.2 Publish a series of articles, in conjunction with the Coaching Committee, in the Gazette and on the CA website. These should include:

  1. A simple start to Association Croquet (Content to cover Garden Croquet, getting them playing within 15 minutes, other fun games to get their interest stimulated, and tips on "do's and don't's" at the early stages)
  2. Practice routines and skills monitoring (Content to include beginners practice routine and a skills test including an example of a record card to monitor progress)
  3. Mentoring (The role of a club coach or other suitable person to help new recruits to AC develop their skills)
  4. Beginners Competitive Play (Promoting the 14-point game with bisques, One day tournaments, Alternate Stroke doubles and Supervised high bisque tournaments)

5.3 These articles are circulated to Federations for onward transmission to CA member clubs to cover players who are not members of the CA.

5.4 Encourage the CA to introduce an AC equivalent to the Grass Roots/ Centre stage events currently run for GC.

5.5 Encourage more Federations to run Short Croquet events.

5.6 Work closely with Jacques to

a) Create a National Garden Croquet event

b) Promote the CA through Jacques sets

c) Insert the CA Garden Croquet rules in all new Jacques sets

Appendix I: Composition of the Working Party

Jonathan Isaacs, Chairman of the Marketing Committee, a Vice President of the CA. (South East)

David Openshaw, Former President of the WCF and International Player (London)

Cliff Jones, SWCF Coaching Officer, Senior Coach at The Croquet Academy and International Player (South West)

Roger Staples, Chairman CA Coaching Committee (North)

Anna Giraud, Federation Representative on Council (Yorkshire), Member of the CA Coaching Committee

Nick Mounfield, One of the few AC players to successfully convert from GC and Apps Memorial Bowl winner 2012

Kathy Wallace, Active Club Coach (Mid West)

With additional contributions from:

Duncan Hector, Leading Croquet lobbyist!

Appendix II: The Game of Garden Croquet

The Official Rules of Garden Croquet

Appendix III: Target Croquet

Target Croquet

Appendix IV: Practice Routines for AC Beginners

Practice Routines for AC Beginners

Appendix V: Short Croquet Handicap Card

Download a PDF Short Croquet Handicap Card.

Appendix VI: Skills Test - Record Card

Croquet Skills Tests Record Card (PDF).

Croquet Skills Tests

 

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