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Coach of the Year

Each year Croquet England recognises one coach who has, in the opinion of the Coaching Committee, provided outstanding service to croquet. This award is called 'Coach of the Year'. Please pass nominations to the Chair of the Coaching Committee.

For information about how to train and qualify as a coach, please refer to Becoming a Coach

Coach of the Year 2022: Liz Wilson - Fylde CC

Liz has been actively involved for many years in promoting croquet, introducing newcomers to the game, coaching those in the earlier stages of their croquet journey, and enthusiastically supporting more able players to continue to improve.

In addition to coaching GC, Liz has put together and implemented a structured approach to AC coaching, with taster sessions, introductory courses, internal competitions, fun events, additional coaching for AC improvers, coaching for GC players interested in taking up AC, and arranging regular coaching sessions at Fylde open to players from across the North West Federation.

Liz sees the key elements of successful coaching as patience, making it fun, treating people as individuals, breaking learning into manageable steps, and involving volunteer coaches who are carefully matched to the right individual.

It is clear that Fylde and the North West Federation are blessed to have Liz. She is always willing to go the extra mile and understands that a coach will get the best results by investing time with people in order to build strong relationships. Her passion for coaching is undiminished and she is looking forward to working with the next generation of croquet players.

Coach of the Year 2021: Lionel Tibble - Northampton CC

Lionel is a Grade 3 Coach in both AC and GC, a handicapper in both codes, a referee, a tireless worker for Northampton, and much else - but it is his work as GC International Performance Director and his work with young people that has made him the unanimous choice for Coach of the Year.

There is far more to the IPD role than appears on the surface, and Lionel, year after year, quietly goes about all the organisation without fuss. In his work with the GC Development Squad, he is continually looking for ways to develop and improve coaching generally.

Lionel was central to developing higher-level GC coaching through Pods. Now Summer School for the Under 25s is fast becoming the event of the year for young players - they really enjoy the opportunity to meet others. Lionel organises everything, ensuring people know they are welcome, and caters for beginners and A-class players from age 11 upwards.

More generally, Lionel has an impressive work ethic, approaching his coaching and development work with deep commitment. He not only talks about it, but delivers, to a very high standard, making a real difference. He has a depth of experience and expertise that he shares freely and willingly.

Lionel is a rare combination of an excellent player (he represented England in the 2016 GC Worlds) and an excellent coach, able to encourage and nurture not only practical croquet skills but also confidence, independence and self-belief in those he mentors. He is also a very nice chap!

Coach of the Year 2020: Stephen Custance-Baker - Taunton Deane CC

Stephen puts tremendous effort and time into coaching. He coaches at all levels, in GC, AC and Short Croquet, both during roll-up sessions at Taunton Deane and at arranged courses, and finds time for anyone who asks for help, no matter how complicated or how basic the question. His coaching is clear and informative and always gives plenty of time for practice, with him being always on hand to correct and advise.

He has been central to GC Pod coaching in the SW, with players attending from 15 different clubs, and has been a pioneer of online coaching, going on to make sessions freely available for download. Before every formal session, he uses dummy runs to make sure everything goes to plan. His notes are concise yet comprehensive. As an active coach, he is attentive and observant, suggesting improvements at just the right level for each student.

Stephen has put together well-regarded GC coaching manuals for beginners, intermediate and advanced level players, and another on Short Croquet, and made them all freely available to download. Not least, he has written and published thoughtful books which make an important contribution to available coaching materials.

Stephen is a good communicator and a natural coach, happy to work at any level from advanced problem-solving to helping a beginner take first steps in the game. He has a relaxed style of coaching, putting students at their ease and always explaining the why as well as the how. He loves coaching and wants people to improve, doing so with charm and grace. No ego is involved; for Stephen, it's all about helping players improve. He is clear, courteous, and has an encyclopaedic knowledge of laws and tactics.

Coach of the Year 2019: Ian Shore - High Wycombe CC

Ian Shore has been playing Golf Croquet at High Wycombe Croquet Club for about 10 years, since retiring from the Royal Air Force. His early experience saw him moving through the ranks, largely through the tournaments arranged by Richard Jenkins at Hamptworth, as well as club matches. This experience stood him in good stead as he took part in the B-Level Series tournaments, which, rather to his surprise, led to him winning the National Final in 2015. This success, combined with a series of courses, with Cliff Jones and at The Croquet Academy, gave him the confidence to move into the coaching field, building on his experience as a coach in another sport.

From small beginnings, Ian has built up his coaching portfolio, focusing initially on GC beginners and improvers, and he gained encouragement from working with others, particularly Richard Carline. The introduction of the GC Rules 5th Edition late in 2018 spurred him into developing a rule changes seminar, with the assistance and encouragement of Southern Croquet Federation's Ian Harrison and Chris Roberts.

He then ran the seminar in a number of locations in early 2019 to help 170 referees and others who wanted to understand how the rules had changed. Ian has also made coaching a hallmark of the High Wycombe Club with the introduction of a regular Monday half-hour, preceding the regular roll-up, covering a different subject each week. Further, motivated by Alison Maugham, he has developed a Youth Coaching programme for the club.

As Ian looks ahead, he has planned a full programme of courses at High Wycombe, teaming up with Cliff Jones and fellow coaches at the club, most notably Richard Peperell and Raouf Allim. When asked, he says he shares his club's vision to be a croquet Centre of Excellence at High Wycombe, one in which croquet coaching (in both codes) will have a prominent place.

Coach of the Year 2017: Roger Mills - Sidmouth and Budleigh Salterton Croquet Clubs

The Coaching Committee is delighted to announce that the Coach of the Year 2017 goes to Roger Mills. The Citation received from the General Committee of Budleigh Salterton CC tells of an awful lot of work by a very dedicated and helpful coach. Roger Mills is nominated for his coaching at all levels in the Club and his innovative courses with the South-West Croquet Academy (SWCA).

Roger is always willing to help players, even at a roll-up when he has come to play and ends up coaching! His humorous and practical approach with temporary members gained the club 25 new members this year. His 'conversion course' for GC players - with initial one-to-one sessions, then relaxed group sessions using catchphrases, images, and the 'Budleigh Dance' to help demystify the game - persuaded 12 members to try AC.

In 2016, Roger was one of a small group who worked many hours to set up the SWCA, and he was an assistant coach on many courses. In 2017, he delivered with great success an innovative course - 'Mastering the four-ball break. It is a course of elegant simplicity; avoiding a myriad of rules, the methodology of the '?five mindset points' (Place, Plan, Pioneers, Play Easy, and Prevention) is easily remembered and takes players a long way before a more advanced course is needed.

His instruction is laced with humour, frequently self-deprecating and, using aids such as a washing line, coloured 'ball position mats' and hula hoops, is inspirational. The course, with clear, concise notes, illustrated with simple diagrams to support the 'simple' idea of the 5Ps', took hundreds of hours to develop.

Roger's nature is always to satisfy his personal, demanding mantra of 'how can I do that better?' After coaching, at whatever level, his mind is working on developing coaching skills to improve delivery, to increase attendees' understanding and continue to make croquet fun! Roger coaches at all levels to enthuse others in the game he so clearly enjoys.


Coach of the Year 2015: Ian Burridge - Nottingham Croquet Club

In 2012, Ian identified the lack of activity aimed at developing the next generation of international players and made a proposal to The Croquet Association. The proposal was accepted and Ian was subsequently appointed International Performance Director, an honorary role. Since then, Ian has used his network to identify squad members, facilitated the squad sessions and harnessed a range of experts from the croquet community to pitch in and share their insights into top-level play. Ian's appointment was an inspired action.

Addressing the next tier in 2014/15, Ian set up coaching pods around the country, which concentrated upon improving advanced level AC play. He produced the material and supported and encouraged the coaches, as well as running the Robin Hood pod himself. Pod Coordinators have been impressed with the quality and volume of the material Ian provided, and with the set-up that has triggered a lot of quality coaching that otherwise would not have happened. When the Northern pod faltered, Ian went to York to provide a couple of sessions in a day, which was acclaimed as "truly inspirational stuff and a real benefit to those who attended". Ian constantly seeks and acts on feedback on the programme, engaging the participants in a continuous improvement process - his energy, enthusiasm and rigour are an example to all.

In the run-up to the Women's World AC Championship, he ran several intensive weekend coaching sessions aimed not only at encouraging our female players to consider putting their names down for selection, but also to give them the confidence to participate in more advanced tournaments. The results of these sessions were clear to see last season with three of the four trophies at the Women's World Championship being won by competitors who had attended his coaching sessions, and the number of women entering advanced tournaments up and down the country showing an increase, not to mention a new-found camaraderie amongst women players.

Ian has also found time to write coaching articles for the Gazette, which are well thought out, clear, and concise. It is obvious that Ian not only knows his subject very thoroughly indeed, but that he possesses also the ability to transmit his croquet knowledge extremely well to others - the sure mark of a quality teacher.

Good coaches are found at all levels of the game and are important in introducing and encouraging people to take up our sport. They are also important at every stage of a player's development and Ian has demonstrated particular skill in developing advanced level players. To all he has helped he remains available for individual support as they grow.

Ian Burridge has exhibited an infectious enthusiasm for competitive croquet and instilled a desire to improve into all those he has coached. In this year, he has transformed upper-level AC coaching in England. Most players will not make it to the very top, but the important thing is that, thanks to Ian, there is now a clear and sustainable 'pathway to the top' that is open to every aspiring player and that encourages many to strive for a higher standard of play.

Coach of the Year 2014: Janet Hoptroff - Sussex Croquet Club and Croquet Academy

Janet Hoptroff joined the Littlehampton Club and attended Academy coaching courses. She became a Club coach and helped to build up a competitive environment within her club. Her achievements were spotted by the Croquet Academy and when she joined Sussex County Croquet Club to improve and experience more competitive play she was invited to join the Academy Team.

Janet became a fully qualified Golf Croquet Coach in 2013 and took on the role of Head of Coaching at SCCC as well as becoming a valued Coach at the Academy, in addition to her duties as Academy Secretary.

Janet transformed the coaching environment at Southwick and her efforts led to much higher retention figures from new recruits and, more importantly, created a much more competitive environment within the club. However, Janet's biggest achievement has been her selfless commitment to the growth of the Academy. This is reflected in the fact that during her tenure course attendance has doubled.

Gazette 355

Coach of the Year 2011: Frances Low

Frances started playing croquet in 1993 at Rottingdean following an illustrious career as a member of the Sussex County Cricket Club committee and quickly showed her ability with a croquet mallet. She gained her Grade 1 coaching qualification in 2002 and then progressed to Grade 2 a few years later under the guidance of Brian Teague (a former Coach of The Year). She is also an Association referee. Frances has done a considerable amount of coaching at SCCC running various internal, SECF, and Croquet Assiciation courses including coaching at The Summer School. In addition, she has also coached at Rottingdean. When the Academy was formed, Frances agreed to be the administration officer. She showed her ability to structure and administer the Academy coaching courses effectively. She also demonstrated an ability as an excellent coach undoubtedly helped by her successful career as a mathematics teacher. One of her recent highlights was to run an Academy course with her husband for a French club visiting the Academy. The course was conducted in French!

Gazette 337

Coach of the Year 2010: Dr Michael Lester

Michael Lester started to play croquet in 1995. On moving into the local area, Michael joined Budleigh Salterton CC in 1998. He spends a large amount of time organising and coaching beginners, as well as holding regular clinics for improvers throughout the season. His enthusiasm for these tasks has never dimmed throughout his time at Budleigh Salterton. His own handicap is now at a very respectable 3, and as well as being an Association Referee, Michael has also been a Grade 2 Coach since 2007. He is always most willing to offer advice and help to any player prepared to improve their game, and is a tremendous asset to the Club. Several years ago Michael and his wife, Marie, were preparing to move away to be nearer family, but realising the affection in which they were held by the club members, actually moved much nearer to the Club, to the relief of those many members who have been helped by Michael over the years.

Gazette 335

Coach of the Year 2009: David G A Nicholson

David Nicholson is a member of the East Dorset Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club and has devoted an enormous amount of time and effort to coaching beginners and improvers with great enthusiasm for many years. In addition to this, he organises a coaching clinic for rapidly improving players. He became a Grade 1 Coach in 2005 and a Grade 2 Coach in 2009.

Any time that David is at the club, just about every day, he is always looking for the opportunity to help players improve their game and offer help and advice. David has always been a keen sportsman, representing the Royal Marines and the Royal Navy at rugby, hockey, boxing, sailing, swimming and diving. After his military career, he served in the Dorset and London Fire Brigades and of course played all Brigade sports.

In 1995 David was involved in a very serious road accident which resulted in brain damage and severe injuries to his legs. The brain damage dramatically affected both his long and short-term memory. Unable to work, he returned to his wife's family home in Poole. David slowly regained the use of his legs and started taking very short walks. It was during one of his walks that he came across the croquet club and returned time and again to rest and watch games being played. As David's home was in view from the club, he was able to find his way back otherwise his memory loss would have caused him to get lost.

David became fascinated by croquet and started playing in 1998 using an adapted walking stick in one hand and a croquet mallet in the other. His progress was remarkable and in 2003 he completed his first triple peel. In 2008 he won the Club Open Championship beating the holder who had been Club Champion for the previous eleven years. Every morning David has to read and then re-read the Laws of Association Croquet to combat his memory loss, this then allows him to continue with his daily passion for coaching.

Gazette 329

Coach of the Year 2007: John Munro

John Munro was a member of the Blewbury Club.

Coach of the Year 2006 (Special Award for Golf Croquet): Jennet Blake

Jennet's first major initiative on the croquet stage was to found the Eynsham Croquet Club in Oxfordshire of which she is still chairwoman. But her horizons were broader and she became a devotee and passionate promoter of Golf Croquet. To enable herself to spread the GC gospel actively, she looked to becoming a coach and attended in 2001 at Surbiton the very first Coaches Qualification Course (CQC) and the following year, encouraged by the then Coaching Committee Chairman, Bruce Rannie, she ran an abbreviated CQC focused on GC where players could have instruction on being Golf coaches.

Meanwhile, she and Gerald Mitchell had written "A Guide to Golf Croquet", which sold over 500 copies in the first 3 years. She assisted Michael Hague on a GC CQC in 2003 at Edgbaston. In 2004, she and John Munro ran a one-day GC coaching course at Blewbury and two more courses in 2005 (Blewbury and Leighton-Linslade). This was the beginning of a series of one-day GC courses and two-day CQCs (now called Coach Training Courses) across the country. These have not only coached GC players but more importantly trained up Club GC coaches, many of whom have been later assessed as fully qualified GC coaches. In most of these courses and assessments, she was one of the instructing staff. She has also put a great deal of effort into encouraging others to run GC tournaments in clubs around the Federations.

Her work is now well established and a range of GC courses coordinated by her has become a regular feature in the coaching section of the annual Fixtures Calendar. She has displayed much determination and initiative when playing a leading role in getting GC recognised as a croquet discipline in its own right. She has trodden on a few toes in doing so no doubt, but her unflagging efforts have resulted in the outcome she had set her sights on some years back, results of which she can be justly proud.

Gazette 311

Coach of the Year 2005: John Airey

John Airey was a member of the Swindon Club.

Coach of the Year 2004: James Hawkins

James Hawkins was a member of the Southport and Birkdale Club.

Coach of the Year 2003: Daphne Gaitley

Sussex County Croquet Club. Awarded a Lifetime award in 2013.