Jonathan Interview cont'd

Do you think there is an issue or a problem between half court  AC and GC which I would imagine would prefer very much to play on full courts.

Obviously I think we get resistance to change with most things that we do, but it works very well in tandem in the North of the country so I don't see why it can't work here. We're very lucky. We've got a lot more laws than most clubs and smaller clubs are running Short Croquet and even on their full lawns are tripling up, not doubling up. So we’ve got a long way to go.  I'd like to see other large clubs having a facility where we can offer Short Croquet. But okay the lawns can be changed to full lawns when the need arises.

You've been a member of Sussex for a lot longer than I have and I think you're probably joined in the 80s, didn't you? 

Yes. 1984 or 5 I think it was.

So what struck me recently is we joined when we were in our 40s but now, players are joining much older and the median age in the club has increased and this I think has implications for competitive play. Do you think the kind of competitive play players look for now has changed from that 20 years ago?

Yes, it has slightly. I think partially because people have been retiring earlier and this has given us the ability to have an influx coming in, in the late 50s, and early 60s age group.
Whereas, back in the day, is, when we joined, I think most of us join probably in our mid-late 40s, when we were getting a bit rusty in the more active sports. Now people seem to be playing the more active sports longer, so they're coming into croquet later. I don't think that's the only reason, I think the lifestyle changes in the country mean that people are looking for activities later in life and croquet is one of these ones that ticks the boxes.

But if you look to other countries like New Zealand, they've got an enormous growth amongst the youth, and it shows it can be done, but it's actually supported by the New Zealand government through their sports side. And I'm hoping that the CA can persuade the UK government to be more proactive in supporting for youth.

I can see that the CA might want to make it more a sporty sport rather than a pastime sport. Do you think that meets the needs of a lot of the members, particularly perhaps around the periphery of the country? Not so much of the London clubs, perhaps where the age range is younger, but the coastal clubs.

Yes, it’s not going to be easy. We're increasing numbers of pockets, coming up where we've got young players, What we're finding is if you've got a group of young players together so you can get five or six, then it will start growing. But unless you've got that, it won't work. It is a difficult one. But we are seeing outside our club, we are seeing success particularly in the West Country. There's quite a lot going on around Bristol and Bath with youngsters taking up the sport, and we're seeing one or two internationals coming through very quickly.

Having said all this, I think with all croquet, we've got these two sides to it; there’s the competitive croquet side,  and it's also the social side. I think the social side of croquet is also very important and we need to respect the needs of both types of players.

It seems to me that there's another kind of competition: you've got friendly play where people get together and just have a game; you've got the competitive circuit which we used to play a lot more than we do now. And then there's the bit in between that our one-day competitions seem to have tapped into because they are extraordinarily popular. Is that somewhere you think the Federation might have a role, or is this a club role?

Good question. I I think it's a club role, really, because our clubs are open anyway and I hope that more clubs will start offering one day tournaments. It's interesting to ask why we did it. Roger Sutton and myself had a conversation a few years ago and we both believed there was an opportunity for one day tournaments. The reason was that it meant that people could come and play in a one day tournament, have a jolly good time but they didn't have the expense of staying overnight. So it made the game far more affordable. And also we're seeing it in other sports. In this modern world time seems to be of the essence and having the odd day to play in a tournament is acceptable for some people. Going away for three days for say the tournaments that we used to go into on the early days has become less acceptable, both in terms of the time you're taking to get to that tournament and playing in it, and also the cost of overnight stays.

In general you seem from what you're saying to be optimistic about the future.

Very much so. And I think the one day tournament program has been is a major success in doing that.

Our numbers are growing rapidly at Southwick as they are in lots of other clubs. Croquet is  definitely on a growth spell of the moment and long may it last!

That seems a good point to stop. Thank you, Jonathan, for your time today.

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