News — USCA Committee

Year End 9-wicket Committee Report

11/17/19

Paul Bennett

Nine Wicket Committee Annual Report for 2019

by Paul Bennett

To: Sara Low
President
United States Croquet Association
700 Florida Mango Rd
West Palm Beach, Florida 33406

Dear Sara,
Thank you for asking for a report from me regarding our committee activities, purpose and whether we need additional responsibilities. I am looking through a folder of annual reports from 2011 through 2016. I am unaware of any reports prior to or after this time, but this of course does not mean that these reports were not delivered either in person, email or by other means – simply a record does not exist.

Website

I “got elected as committee chair” after I took over the responsibility of editing and overseeing the 9-wicket web site for the USCA. Jeff Soo made these pages separate and distinct from the USCA main website. This allows us complete freedom to introduce our own set of articles, rules and tactics sections. We can post pictures, articles and announcements. I received several good ideas from Mike Rumbin and Dylan Goodman. I have included a couple of historical articles about croquet from the middle 19th century.

One of these articles mentions the development of “scientific croquet” where folks began showing up at cocktail parties with “custom made mallets”. The game had evolved into two orthogonal paths: one being based upon its social aspects of enjoying and meeting folks with an excuse to interact in a game of croquet, and another seriously based upon the sport of croquet, its tactics, rules and “scientific” refinements.

Events

As committee chair, I listen and observe, and sometimes stir up on my own, some ideas as to why and what our committee exists to do. One of the largest croquet events in America is the St John – Naval Academy Challenge. It is filled with ceremony, pomp and tradition. Their team captains are referred to as the Imperial Wickets. This tradition has been held for over 38 years. Their rules as they state on their website are handed down from the Imperial Wicket to the Wicket in Holding on an informal basis.

Another organization holds corporate events for a group in the Northeast, drawing well over 100 participants. The format was developed with Teddy Prentis to end up with a winner after only a few rounds of play. Many corporate events are held for team building development; others are aimed at raising money for a worthy charity.

Last year we held one regional in Virginia on the border of the SE and Mid-Atlantic regions. This regional held a clinic to introduce players to the sport of 9-wicket croquet using advanced options, similar to the 6-wicket USCA version of the game – rotation, deadness and out-game.

The players in this year’s National came from a mixture of existing players and those that started in the regionals earlier in the year. The turnout this year was twice as good as last year. The lesson learned here is to offer more regional events to introduce players to our sport of croquet and to schedule tournaments well enough in advance to allow players to plan their schedule.

Rules

In 1987-8 USCA rulebook, the laws of American Six Wicket, American Nine Wicket and Golf Croquet were all combined into the same bound book (50 pages total). Shortly, or the year after, these were separated into individual rule books. Once the WCF formed, it took ownership of Golf Croquet and Association Laws, leaving 6-wicket American and 9-wicket to the USCA’s exclusive domain.

Under Mike Rumbin’s leadership, the latest set of 9-wicket rules were adopted in 2016. This set of rules encompass a diverse set of options that describe a variety of playing rules from basic to very advanced expertise.

There has been some criticism of the rules as they stand, but most on the committee believe that they work well and allow tournament directors appropriate options that depend upon the court surface and expected player abilities. A few years ago, some ideas as to how to reword and clarify some rules were beginning to take hold under committee emails, but nothing happened at that time.

A motion to visit a set of rule options that would be mandated by the committee during the play at the Nationals (and possibly regionals) was not seconded and the motion failed to gain any support.

The rules are probably the most viewed section on the website. For good reason, this is the area that attracts the most visitors to the USCA 9-wicket site. A refresh of the rules might generate some additional traffic.

Name Change

An idea was proposed by Bob Kroeger to change the name of the committee, and thus we present this to the Management committee to decide between “USCA Nine Wicket and Long Grass Croquet Committee” or “9-Wicket/Long Grass Croquet”

I’ve held corporate events at the Wigwam on their grand lawn. We setup four 6-wicket long-grass courts and it would be great to acknowledge that the USCA supports this way to introduce the sport of croquet. We setup using the best equipment, mallet and balls. And we always tell them how the English play on well-manicured putting-green like surfaces. I suspect that this is done by other groups on an occasional basis as well. Why not promote this activity to sports and recreation directors across the country?

Two country clubs are looking to develop 9-wicket croquet on their established lawns as a gateway from Golf Croquet to learning and developing the basics skills required in our beloved 6-wicket croquet.

Long grass in the name allows us to introduce folks to the sport of Golf croquet and/or 6-wicket croquet. 9-wicket in the name allows us to remain attached to the long history of the American game while bridging the gap between Golf croquet players and the more challenging skills required in the 6-wicket game.

Near Future

In 2020, we look forward to having four regional tournaments and the Nationals in Louisiana near or on the LSU campus. I would like to see if 9-wicket can re-awaken in our players another way to think about croquet and how to develop it for fun and enjoyment.

Personally I do not believe that serious “scientific” players should partake in this version of the game, unless their goal is to help develop and groom a new set of players that they intend to introduce to our other USCA games, played on good courts, by exacting rules and in tournament conditions.

Otherwise, I look at the 9-wicket and long-grass croquet as a way to connect with the “social” players, the fun-loving group looking away from their iPhone and toward connecting with a charming partner as a team against another couple. The older groups may enjoy some networking time and a reason to raise some money for their cause. Either way, don’t take it too seriously and don’t swing the mallet in anger.

The USCA can help us maintain professionalism, a network for communication and connection to all of our member clubs and individuals.

Members

Thanks to our committee members for keeping us on track throughout the year!

  • Steve Fluder
  • Bob Kroeger
  • George Cochran
  • Ford Fay
  • Don Oakley
  • Sara Low

And thanks for the support from the USCA staff: Ursula, Johnny Mitchell, Jeff Soo and Dylan Goodman.

2019 Year end report

10/30/19

Paul Bennett

Year end report

READ MORE →