TEACHING AND LEARNING CROQUET TECHNIQUES
By: Kevin Brereton
No matter what your coaching or playing style,
you need to be aware of what your body is doing.
Kevin Brereton's compelling analysis of the
bio-mechanics of the sport is the foundation of
It is tempting to compare croquet techniques to that of other ball sports.
However, two significant factors make croquet a unique challenge for both
player and coach.
Firstly, croquet uses a wider range of stroke techniques than most sports.
As in other ball games, there are actions using a single ball, but there
are also strokes which control the distance and directions of two touching
balls. This stroke, the "croquet" stroke, fully exploits the
game's potential for complex ball skills. Secondly, the balls and mallets
are much heavier than the equipment for other ball sports. This must not
be overlooked, because croquet is a sport which not only requires both
powerful and gentle strokes, but it is a game that should - and can - be
enjoyed and contested on equal terms by both men and women with a very
wide range of athletic ability.
Therefore, comparisons made between croquet techniques and the actions
used in billiards, baseball, tennis or golf can be misleading. They are
only useful in so far as they illustrate common principles of applying
forces and control in athletic movement. Let's look at some of the most
basic of these.
BALANCE AND BODY MOVEMENT
Swinging a tennis racquet or a golf club, and especially a three-pound
croquet mallet, moves a player's center-of-gravity. This "body
movement" is necessary to maintain balance. It varies from an almost
undetectable transfer of weight from the heel-to-toes to a more noticeable
re-positioning of the major body masses depending on the power required
and the physique of the player. A golfer employs more "movement"
using a driver than using a pitching wedge. Similarly a shorter player
with less body-mass will require more movement to achieve the same force
as a taller and heavier player. So don't be fooled by someone with a significantly
different body-type who offers advice about how much or how little you
should "move" your body in croquet strokes!
MOVEMENTS IN THE LINE OF AIM
Another common principle in ball sports is to make sure that all
parts of the body that do move do so in the line of the intended aim. Sounds
pretty simple and obvious, you say! How many players push their rumps backwards
in an effort to get more power forwards? How often does the player relying
on a separated grip allow the dominant arm and its hand to push the mallet
off-line? A golfer rotating the pelvis without any forward component in
the action will produce a marvelous slice or hook. Of course, the croquet
player can always blame the lawn!
Once the body is posed for action, effective athletic movement
depends on contracting larger muscles before smaller muscles. Imagine a
pitcher swinging his arm before moving his lower body, or a tennis player
serving the ball before the leg and back muscles had done their work! Even
gentle croquet strokes requiring little muscle activity will be less efficient
if the hand muscles function before the forearm muscles. Depending on how
much power is required, the main "firing" order should be: thigh
muscles, back muscles, arm muscles, and then hand muscles. Which of these
you use and which you omit will depend on your technique, but the correct
order is essential. Getting this right may mean breaking old habits. But
the result will be better accuracy and better control - and you may even
begin to look like a graceful human being, rather than a stiff and inept
WATCHING THE BALL
As in most sports, the croquet player must make sure of correct
contact with the ball being played. Imagine the result if the batter in
baseball watched the short-stop on his swing rather than the ball! When
you throw a ball, your eye is on the destination. But when you strike a
ball, you cannot watch the target or destination. Or can you? The trick
is to train your memory to retain the last vital look at the target and
bring that "image" back to the striking zone so that it is associated
with the ball you are hitting. The image doesn't last long, so get on with
the stroke as soon as you take that last look.
SWINGING "THROUGH" RATHER THAN HITTING "AT" THE
"Follow-through" actions are essential to most strokes
in ball sports, except for a range of special shots that rely on the consequences
of NOT doing so - as in a bunt, drop-volley, stab-kick, stun-shot or, in
croquet, the stop-shot. For most strokes, however, the club or mallet should
feel as if it is accelerating, or gaining speed, throughout the entire
swing. This means it must seem to be gaining speed even after the ball
is struck. To ensure that this happens, try focusing on the side of the
ball opposite the point of impact and regard that point as the object to
As we noted earlier, there is a wide range of stroke techniques in croquet.
Each body type must be matched with a technique which best allows that
player to maintain balance while making the movements necessary to produce
the needed force. The variety of strokes and the weight of the equipment
increase the potential range of techniques. The greatest challenge for
both teacher and player is to find a technique which facilitates the basic
requirements of ball play. This will allow the player to enjoy the pursuit
of mastery in the unique and fascinating ball skills found only in the
sport of croquet.
Have fun out there!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Australia's Kevin Brereton is a full-time coach and the author of video
training tapes and coaching books. He has coached a number of champion
players, both men and women, and has conducted coaching clinics in several
countries, often in partnership with three-time world champion Robert Fulford.
He also makes mallets, and his budget-priced hi-tech ADVANTAGE mallet is
widely praised and used. For information about his mallets, books, or tapes,
- Brereton & Dunstone
91 MacArthur Avenue
O'Connor, 2602, Austrlia