From your Coach - Pixie Jones (the following article is the full version of the coaching tip)

(see 'Documents' for an easy-to-print PDF version)

After a long break from our favourite game, so how do we get back to our standard of last season, as quickly as possible?

Practise, Practise, Practise. 

But what to practise? 

Everybody needs to practice different parts of their game, according to their ability and which code they play.  We all need to practice roquets and hoop running, so let’s start there. 

Take two sets of balls and place them 20cm in front of a practice hoop.  Go through all you have learned about hoop running, stalking the centre of the ball and the point of aim.  Use a short backswing with a smooth follow through from the shoulders.  (Grip, stalk, stance and swing). If 7 of 8 hoops from 20 cm are successful, you are ready to practice from further back.  You will want to also practice hoop running from the sides.  Again the stalking of the ball and the point of aim is critical.  As the hoop shot becomes more sidey the point of aim moves from the centre of the hoop toward the far leg.  Try aiming the centre of your ball to the edge of the “curve” on the inside of the far leg.  From moving further to the side you can find out for yourself just what the risk or percentage of success you will achieve.  This percentage can then be transferred to your game.

Roquets, or lack of accuracy, soon become the bain of all croquet player’s lives.  Take two sets of balls and place them a metre apart.  Stalk the centre of the two balls, try to place your feet equi-distance from the mallet sides with toes facing forward (not outward).  Your hands should be as close together as possible and the grip on the mallet should be firm with the top hand and light with the bottom hand.  If you tighten your bottom hand grip you could cause the mallet to alter its’ line of aim very slightly.  Also hands apart will cause pushing with the bottom hand.  If you lift your head, your shoulders will also come up causing you to miss hit the ball.  There are so many things that can go wrong, but these are the main ones.  Try for 100% accuracy from one metre before trying longer roquets.  Again learn the distance and percentage you can roquet accurately and apply this knowledge to your game.

In golf croquet, once you know your accurate roquet distance, it then becomes your decision whether or not to go for the roquet.  You can of course try a blocking shot to protect the hoop or your partner ball.  You can also prevent the next player from getting a clean swing on his own ball.  You can practice these shots by placing yellow say 2 metres out from but directly in front of the hoop.  From the distance which you now accept as a low percentage roquet distance, take the rest of your balls and aim to land right in front of the yellow ball.  Try to finish either so near the hoop he is afraid to roquet you for fear of hitting you through or too far for him to attempt a jump shot or so close to his ball you spoil his next shot.  Lots of options here, but if you have sorted in your mind, the distance you can accurately roquet, you can add other strengths to your game ie stun shots. 

In association croquet, your turn starts with a roquet.  Again you need to be sure of your accurate percentage for roqueting.   If you miss your roquet, your turn ends, in fact it doesn’t even get started!!  Place balls 1 metre apart and when you have mastered 100% accuracy make the distance 2 metres and so on.  Concentrate on all you have learned about G. S. S. S.  If you can consistently roquet 3 metres, or more for the better players, then move on to your croquet shots.  By the time the season gets started you should be well ahead of your opponents (if it ever stops raining)

Remember that whatever you practice, you must practice success.  Always finish on a high.