Stop Shots with Heavy Mallets
John Riches supplies the following summary of responses from the Nottingham Croquet maillist.
Recently the Coaching Committee has been asked to consider the best way of playing and teaching stop-shots with heavy mallets. During the past 10 years or so there has been a trend toward using mallets weighing well over three and a half pounds, whereas twenty years ago most mallets weighed less than three pounds.
Be that as it may, a number of players who have changed to using the heavier mallets have found that they can no longer play good stop-shots. In particular, they can no longer play a stop-shot from the yard-line in front of hoop 1 to load hoop 2 within 2m and hold position to run hoop 1. This is a shot which can occasionally provide the only good way to establish a break, so it is desirable that a way be found to play it acceptably if at all possible
After gathering information from top players all around the world, and members of our committee spending many hours experimenting out on the lawn, we are ready to pass on to coaches our conclusions regarding the way we recommend this shot should be approached.
It must be recognised that this type of stop-shot requires exact timing, especially if the mallet has a flexible handle; and the percentage of desirable results will be lower than with a lighter mallet. This has to be accepted as part of the price you pay for using a heavier mallet which if used properly has advantages in other ways - for rushes, long rolls and long roquets.
The key points are: “very slow backswing” and “flick it”. (One player was even heard saying these words to himself as he played the stroke. At least, that is what it sounded like, but he had mis-hit the stroke badly).
We also tried different grips and stances, but they did not seem to make much difference.
Players with heavy mallets need to learn the ratios they are capable of achieving for long or short, straight or angled stop-shots. They will also learn to avoid, where possible, using high-ratio stop-shots in order to set up and play breaks. In particular, avoid using a sharp stop-shot to load the next-but-one hoop when you need to get a rush on a ball to your current hoop, as the difficulty of timing the stop-shot exactly will mean that you have less chance of achieving exact control over the finishing position of the striker’s ball than in most other croquet strokes such as flat-mallet drives or stab-rolls or half-rolls.
It may take some time to teach a player to achieve the timing needed for the “flick” as described above. If you find a good way of teaching it (apart from telling the player to imagine he is drawing back a bow-string or flicking a wet towel), or an alternative method of playing stop-shots effectively with heavy mallets, please let us know.
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