Croquet 2013: Imperial Wicket welcomes high-risk stakes
Looking to extend St. John’s winning streak and take home the Annapolis Cup, Imperial Wicket Drew Menzer, a senior from Granville, Ohio, explains how bold moves and high-risk shots are the secret of St. John’s success.
How has becoming Imperial Wicket affected you?
It’s actually been harder than I thought. For example, last year right after I was named Imperial Wicket, I was playing croquet on the campus front lawn. I missed a shot and thought, ‘I’m not supposed to miss shots. I’m in charge now.’ When I was playing during my sophomore and junior years, I was hoping to become Imperial Wicket. Then when I did, I realized that there are a lot of responsibilities that come with it. It’s been great working with the administration and being a part of the planning for the St. John’s-USNA match. I’m excited for when April rolls around and really doing what I was appointed to do.
What inspired you to join the croquet team?
When I applied to St. John’s, I heard about the croquet program, and it sounded interesting. Toward the end of my freshman year, right after the St. John’s-Navy match, a couple classmates and I saw how much fun it was and decided to give it a try. Every student is welcome to join the team, and I try to make sure that anyone who is interested can come out and learn to play. It’s a social sport; you’re learning with a group, which is a lot of fun. Most of the time, it feels like I’m just hanging out and talking with friends.
How has the team been preparing for the match with the Naval Academy?
We simply play games together. We rarely have traditional practices, like taking shots several times in a row. Our practices are: ‘I have free time on a Tuesday afternoon. Let’s go play a game!’ We play two or three days a week here on campus and occasionally at Ginger Cove retirement community. April is the one time we have our big competitions—the match with Navy and then the Nationals, which takes place the following week.
Why does St. John’s perform so well against the Naval Academy?
Part of our strength is our style of play. Our team attracts players who like to take [competitive] risks and have fun. We practice aggressive, difficult, high-risk plays, and often choose the one that has the biggest risk-reward. That’s how you improve. Playing out of bounds and waiting for an opportunity doesn’t get you better at the hard shot. So when it comes to game time, we’re not afraid to make the bold move—and we’re not afraid to have it go wrong either.
What is the most intriguing aspect of the sport?
It’s more of a thinking game than most people realize. There is the physical part of it, like knowing how hard to hit the ball and hitting in a straight line. But you can hit the ball really well and still lose because you make bad tactical decisions. Whenever I introduce someone to croquet, they’re always surprised by how much strategy is involved. They learn that there is a lot more to it, a lot more to think about.
How does playing for a large audience affect your game?
The St. John’s-Navy match is my favorite event of the year. There’s a little bit more pressure to have a lot people watching you instead of just those of us playing, but it’s exciting to have them cheer when you make a shot. It’s a lot of fun to play the Midshipmen, too, and it’s great to see the whole community dress up and come hang out for an afternoon. I love that the Annapolis community comes out to support us.
What is the Johnnie’s attitude toward croquet competition?
We don’t take it too seriously, and I think that’s the way it should be. Croquet is supposed to be a fun game, so as long as you’re having fun then, then you’re doing it right.
The St. John’s-U.S. Naval Academy croquet match will be held at 1 p.m. on Saturday, April 20. Rain date: Sunday, April 21.