Ricochet - a Tool for Teaching Croquet
John Riches proposes that teaching Ricochet, croquet without the croquet strokes, is a fast and fun way for beginners to be introduced to the full game.
I invented the game as a teaching tool, as I believe it is far superior to Golf Croquet as a means of introducing people to Association Croquet. I never intended that it should become a game in its own right, played in tournaments and team events, but I suppose if people want to play it seriously that way, then they can. I would prefer that it have no standard rules, but there is now a stand-alone set of rules if anyone wants them for competition purposes.
If you want to introduce people to mallet sports in general, then Golf Croquet is OK, but if you really want to get them in as Association Croquet players, then the following is the best way to do it:
1. Show them how to stand, hold a mallet, and swing it right through to hit a ball. (about 15 minutes) Do not start with short roquets; get them to see how far they can send the ball, and try again until they can hit it the length of the court.
2. Get them to try hitting so that the ball stops as near as possible to a particular hoop or the peg. With more than one player, make it a contest. Also see who can stop closest to the far side or end of the court without going out. Also try running a hoop from about 2-3 feet in front. (15 minutes).
3. Play a game of Ricochet after quickly explaining the rules as follows: (about 30 minutes).
4. If a ball goes out (other than under 3(b) above), measure it in one yard.
Other rules can be made up and explained by the coach as the game progresses, e.g. if a ball makes a roquet and then in the same stroke goes through its hoop, the hoop point is counted in Ricochet. There are no faults (except that you cannot hit the ball twice, and a swing of the mallet which misses the ball is a stroke); and no wiring lifts.
For 2 or 3 players I would throw one or two "neutral" balls onto the court before starting, so that they will have more options for roquetting and can set up near a neutral ball if they wish. They soon learn that they can load hoops ahead by rushing a ball there before they make the current hoop.
1. Revise stance, grip, swing, roquetting, rushing and hoop running. (15 minutes).
2. Play Ricochet again, perhaps as doubles with partners helping each other. (30 minutes).
3. Explain that it is only a "teaching game", and they will need to learn some more strokes before progressing to "full croquet". Teach take-offs (15 minutes).
1. Revise take-offs (15 minutes).
2. Explain that they will play as before, except that when they roquet a ball they must pick up their ball and place it in contact with the roqueted ball, and in the first 2-ball stroke BOTH balls must stay inside the court.
3. Now (with two or four players) they can choose to play each new turn with either of their balls.
They are now playing Association Croquet, and will learn a few further rules as they go along.
In 3 one-hour sessions (approximately) you have taught them to play Association Croquet in a painless and enjoyable way, and have avoided suggesting that anything less than Association Croquet is worth playing. No formal rules of Ricochet are needed. It is simply Association Croquet without the croquet strokes and with rotation of turns so that no-one sits out while his partner takes all the turns (this can happen in Ricochet, since without croquet strokes it is difficult to get a ball out of a corner, so if you are not required to play it, you would do better to play the ball which is out in the lawn.) The game is quick. Turns do not last long because it is too difficult for beginners to load hoops ahead.
Once beginners are playing Association Croquet, further lessons can be given as the need for a different type of stroke becomes apparent. The next thing to teach would be hoop approaches, using the "circle method"; before they develop too strongly the habit of simply taking off to the front of a hoop. Then teach hoop-loading, straight rolls, right-angle splits and other splits. There is no reason why, within 3-4 months, they should not start learning to split confidently from any hoop to the next two hoops, starting with the easy split from hoop 4 to hoops 5 and 6. Emphasise the need (before moving from the spot where you played it) to observe the result of the split and work out what to do next time to correct a result that does not turn out as desired.
Do not teach stop-shots in the early stages, as you want them to continue swinging confidently right through the ball, even for a short roquet or hoop-running shot which should be played with a long, but slow and deliberate swing. When people are taught stop-shots too early, they often want to use a stop-shot action for almost everything, e.g. roquets, rushes, hoop-running, etc., and develop a tendency to jab and poke at the ball, or dangle the mallet with a loose grip instead of following the "slow, steady and deliberate" mantra.
Before too long, they should start lessons on break-making, risk-taking, setting up the lawn, hampered strokes and simple cannons.
For all of these things (and more) there are recommended ways of teaching them. For example, do you know how to teach someone who cannot play a pass-roll to play one? It is easy when you know how. Coaching is not just knowing how things should be done, or demonstrating how to do them, or telling people what they are doing wrong; it is knowing how to get people to do them the right way.
If you are not a trained and accredited coach, then as soon as possible you should hand the student on to someone who is, and also encourage them to watch games played by good (aggressive) players. Encourage them to enter competitions and try to provide them with suitable opponents who will help them to keep improving, rather than settle into playing only social games.
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