Report by Patricia Duke-Cox
The Woodhall Spa Croquet Club has made a determined effort to introduce the game of croquet to local youngsters. Initially juniors were children or grandchildren of existing club members. Help in the form of grants for equipment and publicity were considered essential for this operation and the co-operation of park managers and school teachers was another highly desirable option.
Luckily in 1999 a grant was received under the “Awards for All” scheme of £2,250 for storage premises and equipment. In addition grants of £125 from the CA and £250 from Lincolnshire County Council were received. Additional items of equipment, including smaller mallets than the standard sizes, were purchased with this money and have been well used in the youth programmes which have catered for the age range 5 – 17 years. Additional equipment is being purchased again this year.
Targeting of youngsters
The Club sought youngsters from the immediate locality, holiday visitors and schools. The local press and information sources e.g. Library, Tourist Information Centre, caravan parks and public notice boards were used to advertise the sessions.
Locally the club used ground at a Caravan and Country Park on the outskirts of the village which already had a very basic croquet area. Using the Club’s own equipment Saturday morning sessions were held from 10 to 12 and holidaymakers arriving on the site could see the activity as it was beside the main driveway into the complex. [picture] About 20 children benefited from these sessions, the small number possibly due to timing but the £1 fee for the two hours might also have had impact on this figure. The current year will see the sessions being held between 2.00-4.00pm. Five Club members helped with these sessions held between May and September. Those local children who did attend regularly progressed well. Aged between 5 and 17 years, a youngster received a certificate of attendance with a digital photograph of himself on it. It is hoped some of the local children might become members in due course, but holidaymakers could only sample the delights of the game, but might return to it elsewhere or bring others along on return visits to this Park.
The other initiatives involve schools. It has become apparent that for this to work well a member of staff is pivotal to its success. All schools in the area received a letter informing them that the club was willing to go in and offer croquet as an activity, either during lunchtimes, after school or on activity days but it is obvious the personal approach and co-operation of someone working on the premises brings results.
The local Prep. school took advantage of three sessions on a Monday evening when 5 boys, aged between 9 and 12 years, were introduced to the basics of short croquet by two club members, building on the knowledge already given them by a competent master within school. These sessions were at the end of the summer term which ended early in July. The Club intends to return early in the summer term as this proved inadequate time to achieve very much.
A local secondary school, which offered croquet during an activity day in 1998, has the advantage that two club members work there. These members were able to offer croquet sessions during lunchtime once a week over about 10 weeks and eventually had 36 pupils who learned Golf Croquet and held a competition at the end of the season. Additionally, five pupils began to learn the rudiments of Short Croquet. The ages of the pupils ranged from 11 to 14 years. The sport was again offered for the activity day in 1999 when four club members helped teach 28 pupils the game of Golf Croquet and finished with a competition. It is good to report that some of these pupils were requesting that the croquet activity begin again early in the Spring term, (which it did) well before the Club sessions were scheduled!
Another Club member, who teaches at a grammar school, has also been able to borrow equipment from the Federation. Twice weekly sessions of Short Croquet were offered to pupils, mainly from Year 7 and aged 11 or 12 years. More than a dozen attended, ten of them for more than four weeks (eight sessions). This master is hoping to be able to enter them for a schools competition this year.
The aim of the Club’s press secretary is to have some coverage of events each week. Local papers have had the following headlines as a result of the activities:- “Croquet Club takes sport to the schools”; “Plenty of action at Croquet Club”.
Summing up, Woodhall Spa CC was able to introduce some form of croquet to 141 children aged between 5 years and 17 years during 1999. The aim during 2000 will be to extend this number and already more positive moves are being made to reach the local primary school. Apart from the venture in the country park, all sessions have been free to the pupils participating. Although no new junior members have yet been recruited as a direct result of last year’s programme, it is hoped that new youth groups will form and grow over the forthcoming years. Watch this space for more information on how we grow!