St. John’s College is steeped in rich traditions. One of its longest standing and most cherished traditions is croquet. In addition to the annual croquet match with the U.S. Naval Academy, St. John’s competes at the National Collegiate Croquet Championships, where Johnnies go toe-to-toe with some of the top colleges in the country. And St. John’s holds more national titles than any other team in the league.
Contrary to appearances, croquet actually involves a lot of strategy. “It’s more of a thinking game than most people realize,” says Drew Menzer (A13), the team’s Imperial Wicket. “You can hit the ball really well and lose because you made bad tactical decisions.” For this reason the St. John’s team’s practices consist mostly of games, rather than repetitive exercises. Players simultaneously learn the physical aspects of the sport and the strategies needed to win.
The holistic approach to the game has resulted in the St. John’s team developing an unusually aggressive style of play. With less pressure placed on players during practice, they are more willing to take risks. “What helps is to try bold shots that you can’t do well yet,” says Menzer. “It makes you better.” With so many aggressive plays made during practice, the team becomes used to high-stakes, high-return maneuvers. “Sometimes what was once a risky move can be a pretty good choice once you’ve practiced it so many times.”
True to the St. John’s spirit, all students are welcome to join the team, even if they have no prior experience. The croquet team is usually out on the field three times a week, willing to give newcomers lessons. “It actually takes much longer to master the game, but it’s pretty simple to learn the basics and start playing,” says Menzer. “We invite students to come out and learn to play anytime.” The friendly atmosphere and carefree nature of the game attracts a lot of students; many end up becoming good friends as well as teammates. “Having other people learning with you is always a lot more fun, says Menzer.” ~ Nutchapol Boonparlit (A14)