The first step was to gain official recognition from the University. Once the school year began, this became a much easier task to manage. We were advised to begin by forming a Contracted Independent Organization, one form of which can be a club sport team. The Croquet Club falls under this category.
After filling out all of the necessary forms, we won the approval of the student council and thus official University status as a club sport.
The next step was to recruit some players. William Harmon, Vice President of Student Affairs, made this easy for us by sending out to the entire student body an announcement of the formation of the croquet club along with contact information. Within minutes, my mailbox was flooded by emails. It was reassuring to know lots of students were interested in croquet.
The first game they learned was golf croquet, which I believe is by far the best way to start. It’s not surprising that I favor this method, as it is the game I was first taught by my father on our home croquet lawn in Phoenix. New players don’t want to bother with croquet strokes, deadness, and complex strategy; they just want to hit the balls and run the hoops. This of course has done wonders for the team’s single-ball shooting skills and lagging.
They have begun a gradual transition to Association [International] Rules. Although it is a big step from golf croquet to Association Rules, I find that the students are less likely to get frustrated with the new shots they have to learn when they have already mastered single balls shots in the process of achieving expertise in golf croquet.
The first serious tournament the students will enter is the National Golf Croquet Championships, held March 10-13 at the new National Croquet Center in West Palm Beach. Conveniently, this tournament falls on our spring break, as does the ensuing National Club Teams Championship, March 14-18. Most of the eight or so team members who go to Florida will play in both tournaments.
Both these tournaments should be great preparation for the National Collegiate Championships, held April 21-22 in Wilmington, Delaware. Before the Club Teams we’ll do a “crash course” in American Rules and have some tournament experience in that game to further help us get ready to win the Collegiate Championships.
My motivation behind all of this is not just to try to help my school to dominate collegiate croquet. I want to raise the bar for the other schools and create a competitive spirit among them that will spur the advancement of their games. I also hope this competitive spirit will expand beyond the half dozen or so schools that currently participate to span the whole country and a large number of universities.
More real croquet courts are needed at colleges and universities. We are fortunate to have access to the excellent Craig court so near our school. And we are laying serious plans to build two croquet courts at Boar’s Head Inn, a resort owned by the University of Virginia. The General Manager, Jorg Lippuner, who is well acquainted with the success of croquet at several American resorts, is excited about the possibility of croquet there and is working with us to see how we can all make it happen. These courts would make a huge difference in the advancement of the University of Virginia’s croquet program. American croquet needs to attract more young players.
We beat Australia by the narrowest of margins in the MacRobertson Shield 2000. This is the sort of player base we need to develop in the United States to rise to the top of the rankings in international croquet competition.
[The croquet club is independent of the University Corporation and stands on its own. Photos supplied by Jacques Fournier.]
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