About the Author
Ian Plummer has been playing croquet since he was a graduate and currently plays off a -1/2 handicap. He started at Oxford University with a chemistry degree and
obtained his doctorate designing and developing a new form of electron microscope.
Following post doctoral work, consultancy and positions at Corpus Christi and
St. Anne's Colleges he has now returned to his original college (Balliol) where
he does computing. At Oxford University he has encouraged and coached many
students in the sport.
He is a qualified Croquet Association (CA) championship referee, grade 3 coach, handicapper
and a member of the CA's Equipment Committee.
came to croquet by accident; one of the students in my laboratory was secretary
of the Oxford University Croquet Club and I helped him use the new fangled
'word processor' we had in the lab to type out the Club's minutes. Other
than that I had only thwacked balls in the college quadrangle without any
idea of the game. It was some surprise consequently when I found that I had
been 'elected' to be the secretary of the Club for the following year. "But
I don't know how to play and I'm not a member!"
From that start however I have not looked back. Of the sports I have tried
croquet has always had a new challenge - and still does. Unlike 'target'
sports (archery, shooting, etc.) where you do the same thing but become more
accurate (normally asymptotically), or a team sport (rowing) where your good
(or bad) input gets averaged (probably to the lowest common denominator),
croquet always has a new summit to be reached by your own efforts
As a beginner there is a thrill in making a small break through a few hoops,
then getting the skills to perhaps go 'all the way around'. Slowly the balance
of touch and tactics is revealed; there are days when everything goes right
and tactical considerations are second most. Other days the mallet may as
well be a wet stick of rhubarb and you have to depend on tactics. If I had
to sum up my performance I would say that I am one of the worst shots for
someone of my handicap!
Croquet is a pleasing intellectual challenge. Some of the more fancy manoeuvres
(e.g. triple peels) are complex acts of horizontal juggling. Then there is
the fact that you have to 'play the person'. There is the delight of executing
a daring and complex break, or leaving the opponent with a do or die scenario
at the end of your break. I can heartily recommend the game.
I get a huge amount of pleasure from introducing people to the sport and
have recently been delighted to find people I taught 20 years ago returning
to croquet now that their lives and careers have settled."
In 2010 he was awarded the Croquet Association's Council Medal for Services to Croquet. The citation reads:
Ian Plummer has coached students at Oxford University for over 25 years and the total number he has introduced to croquet is certainly well into four figures. A significant number have gone on to play in the higher echelons of the game - including the current highest ranked lady player in the world, the current English lady champion and several players who have represented their countries in international teams.
Six of them were contenders for the last World Championships, whilst others are returning to the sport after raising families. His coaching notes have been translated into Japanese, German and Russian. Oxford's dominance in the Varsity Match during his time there shows the benefits of having an experienced player as a permanent presence.
Always keen to share his knowledge, he developed the “Oxford Croquet” website about eight years ago, which is recognised, by links from sites around the world, for the authority of its articles, which now number over 500. He has also developed web-based applications, including a club locator covering many countries and a tournament management system for multi-venue events.
He has applied both his theoretical and practical scientific skills for the benefit of croquet , working with other players and the CA Equipment Committee to investigate a number of technical issues, including high speed ball and mallet interactions via video, electrical contact and carbon paper. His calculations of the time/distance relationship for balls as they slow down have been recognised by naming a measure of lawn speed after him.
Although he has never been part of the management structure of the CA, preferring the freedom of operating outside, he has nevertheless been active in stimulating its development, particularly in the areas of web and database technology and online publishing. He formatted the first edition of the laws to appear online, encouraged the publication of the directory and fixtures book, and has piloted on-line tournament vacancy information for the Surbiton club, where he plays when not at Oxford.
His contribution to croquet in several fields makes him a worthy first recipient of the Council Medal under its recently adopted wider criteria.
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