When we found out man-giant and Framework’s Volunteer Coordinator Omied Hallam was an avid croquet player, we imagined him towering over other players, mallet in hand, dominating the lawns. We weren’t wrong. He’s one of the top 100 players worldwide, having gone on to win the singles championship at the annual tournament down Nottingham Croquet Club, which celebrated its ninetieth birthday in August…
Tell us about the Nottingham Croquet Club at the University of Nottingham...
The land was originally donated to the council by Jesse Boot in 1929, under the condition that it’d be used for social activity. We now get exclusive use of many of the lawns and the pavilion. Last month, the club had around sixty members and visitors celebrating with us for the ninetieth birthday. We played for a full week, with doubles and individual matches running.
The club has quite a track record. You’ve got a few international champions...
Yes, Rachel Gee won the European Golf Croquet Championship in 2014 and 2018. We also have Paddy Chapman who took the Association Croquet World Championships this year, and his wife Miranda Chapman is reigning Women's Association Croquet World Champion. This season we’ve had victories against other clubs and individual wins in regional championship tournaments.
Omied, how on earth did you get into croquet?
Ten years ago, my dad was made redundant, so me and my older brother Sanaa asked him to teach us, to keep him busy. Before we knew it, we were winning in our first tournament. I loved watching my dad and aunt play when I was younger. If they beat you, they used to say you’d “been Hallamed”. My brother and I got our names on the doubles trophy exactly 25 years after my dad and aunt did. We’re hoping in another 25 years, my brother’s kids will do the same. My dad is sadly no longer with us but it’s my aim to get my name on all the trophies he did.
It’s all about strategising and decision making. Think chess, or snooker.
Is croquet the only sport you’ve played? You look like you’d be pretty nifty on the rugby pitch...
Over the years I’ve played badminton and rugby, but they all come with risks. I broke my leg twelve years ago just having a kick-around in the park. With croquet, I don’t need to worry about getting too old and retiring, I can keep going until I’m eighty. Anyone can play.
It’s ideal for someone who might struggle with the demands of a conventional sport. You need a bit of strength to make the long shots, but generally it’s short bursts of activity with rests in between. It also has some great mental health benefits: being outdoors, taking time to focus on the individual shots, seeing a game through. Plus, everybody here is so lovely and keen to help you progress.
What’s the most important part of the game?
It’s all about strategising and decision making. Think chess, or snooker. Games are often won by outthinking your opponent, which can be very satisfying. I often say that croquet would appeal to people who are into tabletop or board games for this exact reason.
What would you say to someone who is thinking of getting involved?
We’ll be having an open night this month, where anyone can have a go or chat with us about the sport. If you like it, there are beginners’ courses to take part in. We compete April to October, so the season is coming towards a close now, but there’s plenty of time to get a taste for it.
Nottingham Croquet Club’s Open Night takes place Wednesday 12 September at 6pm.