Why are so few players entering tournaments?
This continues the discussion currently here.
A view from Bill Arliss
Changes in the Croquet World
The figures you give for tournament entries are quite alarming but I would suggest quite expected under the present economic circumstances. The problem is that when you compare CA tournament entries with one day local entries, you are not comparing like with like and I am sorry to say that our national governing body, the CA, do not and possibly do not want to recognise these differences. To get a far better understanding of exactly what is happening, I believe you have to take a very close look at what motivates anybody to pick up a mallet and support their local croquet club year after year.
My own view is that the croquet world is made up of two very distinct and very different types of person. On one hand you have the player for whom croquet is quite a serious sport. Their aim is always to improve their own performance and it is the results they achieve that always drives them on. Whilst only a very few manage to actually collect the silverware in competitions, the fight for lower handicaps and higher rankings is a major and necessary part of their motivation.
Alternatively, you have the grass roots players for whom croquet is a first-rate pastime and competing in matches and tournaments simply adds to their social interaction. Don’t for one moment think that this attitude leads to lack of a competitive approach when they meet on the lawn. Far from it, they always try their very best but the competitive attitude dies completely at the end of the day. For this group of players, the verdict on an event is whether they enjoyed themselves or not. To this end, the event manager has to organise on the basis of treating all players equally irrespective of their ability. Because croquet is a pass time for this group of players, one has to accept that family matters will always take precedence and one always has to be ready for withdrawals at the very last moment.
I am not trying to say that every player will fall into one group or the other, there are many with views that sit in the middle. I would personally admit that my earlier activities were initially ‘glory hunting’ but changed to pure enjoyment in later life.
If we now turn to the AC vs GC argument, it becomes quite easy to see why so many at club level are drifting away from AC when you recognise the game as a pastime. It has very little to do with the complexity of simplicity of the laws, its all about social interaction when playing the game. What is more anti-social than sitting out at the side of the lawn whilst your opponent does his bit.
In my first paragraph, I made reference to the CA not really wanting to know about the differences. As a member of Council for over twenty-five years, I am sure I gathered a reasonable understanding of their approach. The CA has always regarded itself as the guardians of a top-class sport and have made major strides to keep and maintain this reputation and have been very derogatory to anyone who is not seriously competitive. On the whole and looking back to historical records, I believe they have succeeded quite well in this approach and would not like to see their efforts in this direction in any way diluted.
However, I do believe that they are wandering along with their heads very much in the sands and not coming to terms with real life today where we live in a very materialistic and balance sheets have to finish in the black.
I would start by asking everyone to take a close look at some very simple statistics. The fairly recent registration of all club players and the creation of the standard member has quite clearly shown that the standard members outnumber the premium members by a factor of about six. If we assume that the Premium Members make up most of the serious tournament members and the Standard Members are mainly the grass roots club players, then one comes to a conclusion that the majority of the financing of the croquet club infrastructure is in the hands of the grass roots players. As far as I am aware they all pay the same club subscriptions as the serious tournament players. Without the club infrastructure croquet would totally collapse like a pack of cards.
I would not like to see major changes to the CA operation. By all means they should carry on trying to produce the best players in the world but at the same time make a simple but very public recognition of the importance of croquet as a serious pastime and accept that very different parameters have to be used in the design of events for the grass roots members. Creating pleasure for all involved has to take absolute priority over finding the correct winner or doing things in the correct way. As I say above, I do not think it will mean major changes to the CA operation but it will mean a vast change in their culture. By doing so, I feel they would gain much more respect from the grass roots players and at the same time protect the large financial input these players make to the croquet infrastructure.
If you accept the general findings suggested in the above text then I would suggest it is quite easy to see why simple one day local events are likely to prosper far better than serious tournament events which nearly always involve distance travelling and accommodation costs which are now rocketing.