Nottingham Croquet Club has been a feature of Highfields Park for 80 years and with the club being the home of the reigning croquet world champions, Paddy and Miranda Chapman, Beeston is the home of one of Nottingham’s most successful sports clubs.
The club previously hosted the Women’s World Championships in 2015, which was won by Miranda and will be hosting the Under 21 Croquet World Championships in July this year.
“It’s really nice to have youngsters playing because everyone has an image of croquet as being about old people which it’s not,” said club chairman Beatrice McGlen.
The club are trying to bring croquet to new people and with the clubs slogan being ‘croquet for all’, Beatrice is hoping that more young people will get involved in the sport across Nottingham as they try to mirror the success that the sport has had with younger generations in New Zealand.
“In the Under 21 Championships coming up, there are 24 players who have been selected by the World Croquet Federation and 10 of them are from New Zealand, which is a pretty high number,” says Beatrice.
“The set up with sports and schools in New Zealand is very similar here, so we’ve got 5 local schools within the vicinity of the club who we are going to do a taster session with in June.
“We’re then going to have an afterschool club on a Thursday and the idea is to set up an interschool competition with the final being played during the Under 21 Championships so they can see the world’s best young people playing whilst having their own competition. Hopefully, we will end up with a thriving junior section within the club.”
Croquet is not only stereotyped as being for elderly people, but also for those who are mainly white and middle class, something which Beatrice tells me that the club are making efforts to address.
“We have a Pakistani member, Ferzana Shan, she’s our only Asian member and I was saying to her one day, ‘how can we make croquet more appealing to the Asian population?’ She said one of the difficulties is actually getting people through the gate, so last year we were invited to the Pakistani forum for the Pakistan independence day celebrations and we went along to their dinner and showed them how to play croquet.
“This year we’re talking about having an evening specifically geared for Asian families. It’s a perfect sport for multi-generational families to play because you can really play from 9 to 90 without any trouble at all.”
There are two types of croquet that are commonly played; association croquet which can be very tactical and requires more mental and technical skill and golf croquet which is seen as being more sociable.
Tim King has played almost 2000 games of croquet, which he tells me is the most in the croquet ranking system. Tim will be competing in the Golf Croquet World Championships this summer and says that although it is a simple sport to play, there is more to it than people might think. “Almost anybody can start playing a competitive game of croquet in about 10 minutes, but the fascination of it comes from the tactics. There’s lots of different choices, some players like to hit the ball harder and other players are really accurate and put the ball exactly where they want it to block the opponent.
“I love my cricket and football, but because I don’t have natural hand-eye coordination I was just never good enough, but in croquet, I very quickly became reasonably competent.
“The mental side is the one that keeps on posing a challenge. You have to learn to stay calm. When the likes of Sir Clive Woodward talk about thinking clearly under pressure, croquet is a sport where anybody of any age, gender or level of physical fitness, can go onto that court and experience what Sir Clive means.
“I would say to anybody who’s not played a competitive sport before because they feel they don’t have what it takes, croquet is a sport that they can really enjoy.”
Anyone interested in having a go at croquet can contact the club at https://www.nottinghamcroquet.org.uk/contact