Don’t knock croquet as a sport

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 3, 2004

Suffolk News-Herald

Do you consider croquet to be a sport?

Maybe so. There’s definitely a competitive aspect to the game, and a certain amount of skill involved with trying to knock a ball through those all-too-narrow wickets before your opponent does.

Email newsletter signup

But is the actual game a sport, or is it just a simple pastime? As in, a leisurely activity that families and neighbors occasionally play out in the backyard, only to forget as soon as the last peg is struck.

Marie and Conrad Haas want the game to be more than just a game. They want croquet to be seen for the challenging, serious sport that they have known it to be for nearly a decade.

Then living in Raleigh, N.C., the couple first took up the sport in the mid-1990s. &uot;There’s no age limit to croquet,&uot; says Marie.’ &uot;You can start young, and play as long as you can get out on the field.&uot; An entire section of the Haas closet is filled with the white shoes, hats, gloves, and coats that are the attire of competitive croquet, and their license plate reads &uot;Crow K.&uot;

Last year, Conrad was elected the newest president of the Virginia/West Virginia district of croquet. The district, a section of the United State Croquet Association, which was founded in 1976 and includes 250 clubs and 3,000 members, encompasses 12 clubs and 135 members throughout the two states. It’s dedicated to increasing the popularity of croquet by adding new members.

They’d like to start the addition process right here in Suffolk, where the Haases moved in 1999. Currently, the closest croquet facilities are in Kiln Creek in Newport News. &uot;There’s not really a place to play here,&uot; says Conrad. &uot;But croquet is something unique that Suffolk needs. We’re hoping that this will stir up some new interest.&uot;

Contrary to popular belief, croquet isn’t quite the easy, laid-back event that so many consider it to be. Players must use a long, thin mallet to tap a ball up to 70 feet toward a wicket, at which point they have to negotiate a way through the wicket, which is all of 1/16th of an inch wider than the ball (to make a comparison, basketball hoops are nearly twice as wide a the balls that are tossed through them). Players have to discover a speedy direction through six wickets twice, then smack the center peg for the win.

&uot;It’s like watching the last few minutes of a close ACC basketball game,&uot; Conrad says. &uot;With a few wickets left, it gets pretty tense.&uot;

The couple would like to see a croquet facility somewhere in Suffolk, perhaps at the Hilton Garden Hotel on Main Street, scheduled to open early next year. &uot;I think it’s like ‘Field of Dreams,’&uot; Marie says. &uot;If we build it, they will come!&uot;

For details, call 923-0095 or visit