Imperial Wicket Sam Collins, a junior from Fallsington, Pa., talks with junior Eunji Kim about aspirations to reclaim the Annapolis Cup and—more importantly—to ensure that the 32nd annual St. John’s-U.S. Naval Academy croquet match is a festive lawn party for the players and spectators alike.
What inspired you to join the croquet team?
In spring 2011, before I became a student at the college, I decided to check out the [St. John’s-Navy] croquet match with my family. I was impressed by the atmosphere—not only the event but by how the team was enjoying themselves. From that point, I wanted to join, so at the beginning of my freshman year, I set out to try to at least make the team.
What do you like most about being Imperial Wicket?
I have a lot of responsibility to make sure that the players are improving and enjoying themselves. I want to make sure that other students see how much fun we are having and inspire them to want to come out and play, too. And I like to say, ‘As Imperial Wicket…’ and then mandate something ridiculous. When I’m at home, I’ll say, ‘Dad, as Imperial Wicket, I’d like a steak.’
What are some of the team’s annual traditions?
On the morning of the match with Navy, we get up before everyone else and set up the croquet courts—just me and 11 other [teammates] in the fresh morning dew, mowing the [campus] front lawn. This year we are planning to steam roll it so it will be nice and flat. Hopefully, as Imperial Wicket, I’ll get to steam roll it. And the weekend before the match with Navy, we play a tournament with the Ginger Cove retirement community. They usually beat us but we have a lot of fun.
Does St. John’s compete with other colleges or universities?
Every year we play at the Croquet Nationals held at the Merion Cricket Club in Pennsylvania where we compete with Navy and other schools such as Princeton, William and Mary, and Oklahoma Wesleyan University. Last year we won the national championship.
What makes the St. John’s-Navy croquet match a cherished rite of spring?
Spectators get to have a picnic with friends, open a bottle of champagne, and enjoy the day. For Navy and St. John’s students, it’s a good opportunity to step out of our academic atmosphere and relax. The St. John’s-Navy croquet match has really grown into a cool event for the Annapolis community.
Do you feel pressure to reclaim the Annapolis Cup?
At the beginning of the year, I was thinking how I didn’t want to lose to Navy two years in a row. But as I thought more about competition and what it means at St. John’s, I became more concerned with making sure that everyone just has a good time. I would like to win and I think we have a good chance of winning, though [Johnnies] aren’t as concerned with that. An alumnus told me that 10 years ago, on any given Tuesday or Friday [during the academic year], there were about 30 Johnnies out on the front lawn playing croquet. To me, more important than winning is bringing that [tradition] back.
The 32nd annual St. John’s-U.S. Naval Academy croquet match will be held at 1 p.m. on Saturday, April 12. Rain date: Sunday, April 13.