Thursday, November 13, 2008

A Whole New World

My involvement in International or Association Laws croquet begins with Mike Orgill, Reuben Edwards, Karen Collingwood, and Martyn Selman. These steadfast rocks of west coast croquet managed to intrigue me with their preferred version of the game that did not involve those silly deadness boards. Having played a version of 9-wicket without carry-over deadness, I thought the strategy for this new game would come naturally.
Boy was I wrong.

Having a bit of break theory under my belt allowed me to play the Association game with an aggressive fervor I had only experienced in the last two minutes in the other flavors of croquet. I instantly enjoyed the freedom that comes with playing either ball and the clean slate philosophy that accompanies such a broad spectrum of possibilities. I learned to truly shake off the poor execution and bad planning from the last turns and focus on the situation at hand. It took all of my concentration to see even the simplest possibilities and to wrap my head around out of sequence play. Those first few years I would only play the North American Open tournament, which had a limited amount of entries. It took me a few years to truly understand the basic points about setting leaves and traps that stifle the opponent. In those fledgeling days, I barely managed the ten games annually which were the minimum necessary for a current world ranking.

I have been honored to join in the Selection 8's tournament whenever they will have me. The Selection 8's tournament is a format we have borrowed from the Brits primarily for it's convenient structure and applicability to international competition. In test matches between countries, six players and two alternates will make up a team. It is essential for the selection committee to be well informed as to these eight players' relative skill against each other. The marvelous event is a showcase for North American croquet which allows for lots of high-level competition and serves as a proving ground for developing players. I have yet to win any eight, but I have come to appreciate defending my assignment in certain groups. If I can win half of my games, I feel I have earned my place in that select group. After managing to tie for second in the hotly contested second eight (spots 9-16) in October of 2007 I was honored to be considered for our Solomon team in 2008. However, I did not make the cut. More on that later...

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