An interview with Debbie Lines

An interview with Debbie Lines

Interview by Giles Pepperell

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Peterborough Croquet Club

Potted playing history – from first picking up a mallet to current play  - including what influenced you to start.

My family started playing croquet at a hotel in Cromer, Norfolk when I was just six years old. The same families came back year after year to play a hard fought tournament, the rules were not quite the same, being closer to American 6-wicket rules with rotation and deadness, but it taught me the basic skills. When I was 18 the hotel closed down and my brother Stephen, Dad and I entered the Hunstanton Week. It turned out we all had already reached about handicap 7, although we didn’t really know what a ‘break’ was! From then on, with a bit of practice, I quickly learnt to play breaks and soon Triple Peels even.

Your finest or proudest achievement and shot.

Representing Great Britain at my sport has been my proudest achievement and I have been privileged to do this several times now. In 1996 I was on the GB winning MacRobertson Shield team. More recently I captained the 2023 GB Solomon Trophy team, although sadly we didn’t win.

Please tell us about your mallet and why you chose it (maker, etc., no detail too small, shaft/head materials, head weight, dimensions, one piece handle, grip material, etc.). What mallets have you had before? Do you have different mallets for AC and GC or lawn types/conditions?

I absolutely love my new Trimmer mallet. It replaced my old wooden shafted Percival two years ago and I immediately started running hoops better and hitting in more often. The confidence this gave me spread throughout my game and I make fewer errors now, mainly due to a stronger mental attitude. I thought changing mallets would take some time, as my stop shots were so much better with my old mallet, but it took about an hour to work out the differences and adapt my break play accordingly.

There are many styles, but what is your approach to stalking and a smooth swing?

I cast, but then ground the mallet before hitting. I find this gives me much better pace control.

What is your top tip for a good tournament performance?

Turn up practised and relaxed.

What is the one other piece of kit you're never without?

I like a short-peaked hat. I find the typical long brim of a baseball cap too long, as I lift my head too quickly to see what’s happening. The short peak helps shade my eyes but I don’t look up until I’ve finished my swing.

What is your best suggestion for development in either code?

The decline of AC is really worrying. Too many clubs seem to run their recruitment and coaching aimed at GC with some vague hope that people will transfer over to AC later. We really need clubs to devote more time to AC recruitment and coaching. If you recruit AC players first, nearly all of these people will end up playing GC as well, but it just doesn’t work the other way around.

I also think that we should look at how we structure recruitment and coaching. We expect our volunteers to do it for free, but in almost every other sport, its normal to pay to be taught how to play. We ought to be charging for beginners coaching courses. This would give the volunteer some small recompense for their time (and so more likely to do it) and make our sport look more professional.

I’d like to see more clubs actively aiming their recruiting efforts at early retirees, although I’m not sure how! 50 and 60 year olds have the energy and fitness to actually help run a club, and would provide the volunteer effort that so many clubs are now finding difficult to resource. Maybe we should be actively trying to convert people from other sports as they get too old and unfit during their 40s? The competitive spirit needs an outlet, and as people find tennis, football, rugby, etc. is beyond them, maybe croquet should be positioned as a good alternative.

Who do you enjoy playing against and why?

I mostly play A class croquet rather than handicap. I find handicap play frustrating, because if the players use their bisques badly, I want to leap onto the lawn and start coaching. On the other hand, if they use them well, I don’t get any play at all but just pull out the bisques!

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