The following article was posted on the Nottingham Croquet list on February 21, 1998
I have taught croquet to many groups of schoolchildren from 12 years of age upward. However the aim was not to bring them into the game, but rather to give them an understanding and positive attitude to the game.
I found that the best way is to use a game called Ricochet, which was apprently played in Europe in the early days of the century. It is far more efficient than Golf Croquet (which is an excellent game in its own right) as an aid to help children - or adults - learn the game of croquet.
Ricochet is played under the same rules as croquet (or as many of them as you want to intrduce), with the following exceptions:
- You can have any number of players from 2 to 8, but 4 - 6 is best.
- Players take turns as in Golf Croquet. This is not essential, but with schoolchildren it avoids arguments between partners about who is going to play.
- All players can play singly, or they can be paired as doubles if desired, with both partners having to reach and hit the peg in order to win. When the first of them hits the peg his ball remains in play and he can use his turns to either help his partner or annoy the opposition. This keeps them all involved.
- They make only 6 hoops and the peg. A game normally takes between 30 and 45 minutes.
- The main difference is that there are NO CROQUET STROKES. Making your ball hit any other ball (there is no need to use technical terms such as, "roquet") earns you two further strokes. You do not pick your ball up and place it against the ball that it hit; instead you play it from where it came to rest. This means that the ability to ricochet off the roqueted ball to a particular position is important - hence the name. You also earn one futher stroke for running a hoop and can use all of the balls again, as in normal croquet.
- As in normal croquet you hit in from either baulk and make the hoops in order, using clips. If a ball goes out you measure it onto the imaginary yardline. When the game is played by experienced players it can be made a little less easy by introducing a rule that your turn ends if you hit your ball out on the first of the two extra strokes. This prevents you from simply belting your ball out near a distant yardline ball, measuring it in and continuing, and so requires more skill in judging distance. It is analogous to going out in a croquet stroke.
Thus the normal sequence of play is: make a roquet, then use the first of your two strokes to hit your ball near another ball and the second to roquet it. Repeat the process, working your way toward the hoop you wish to make. When you get better you can contrive before making a hoop to rush a ball to a position near the following hoop, making it easier to continue the break. You can also send opposition balls to distant parts of the court.
With only 2 - 4 beginning players it is a good idea to throw a couple of extra "neutral" balls from another set onto the court before starting the game. These balls can be roqueted to gain extra strokes, or you can set up near one and hope that you will still be there when your turn comes around again. It gives more options and makes the game a little less frustrating for new players. If you or another experienced player is joining in the game, you can give yourself a handicap by severely limiting the number of balls you are permitted to use, e.g. you can play yellow, and the only balls you are permitted to roquet (out of the six or so balls in the game) are blue and red.
Ricochet is picked up much more quickly by beginners than by experienced croquet players who keep wanting to pick up their ball and take croquet every time they make a roquet.
The advantages of Ricochet (which is played regularly in quite a few Australian clubs) is that newcomers can play it (as with Golf Croquet) after only 10-15 minutes instruction in how to hold and swing a mallet; and after four or so sessions you can say to them "From now on we are changing the rules. When you hit another ball and earn two further strokes you must pick up your ball and place it in contact with the ball you hit before you play the first of your two strokes. In this two-ball stroke both balls must move and both must stay on the court." Then they are playing Association Croquet, although it will take them a while to learn how to control the various two-ball strokes.
of Enfield, Australia