Bisques, Breaks & Beyond

Bisques, Breaks & Beyond

Roger Mills is a leading coach in the South West, and has published two books about playing AC, Getting Maximum Bang For Your Bisques and Taming The Triple. His third book, Bisques, Breaks and Beyond, has just been published and I asked him to tell me why he had written the books. This is what he told me …

My love of croquet started 12 years ago when I moved to Sidmouth, and it quickly became an obsession. In the first two years I was mad keen to learn, and attended every coaching course I could. Then I fell into my second obsession - coaching - and I began studying and researching it.

I read coaching books from other sports (golf, cricket, rugby) and explored how people learn. I followed international coaches on their websites. And I sought out coaching courses run by leading coaches, not so much to improve my own game, but because I wanted to learn how they coached.

But it was the formation of the South West Croquet Academy at Budleigh in 2015 that would ultimately lead to me writing my books.  Top UK coaches came to the SWCA to deliver AC coaching courses for low handicap players, which left room for me to present courses for AC players with handicaps 7-18. This was a very formative period for me, and I used it to define my own coaching beliefs and style.

I really hated seeing C and D-Class players struggling to improve their game. And I noticed that often these players, despite having attended technically excellent courses, would shortly afterwards be playing in exactly the same way as before the course!

Three main reasons struck me for the coaching not being effective. First, it hadn’t changed players’ thinking, so they stayed with their old ways of playing. Second, players seemed overwhelmed by the number of concepts and rules thrown at them. Third, the coaching advice was quickly forgotten; it hadn’t been ‘sticky’.  Ultimately, if coaching doesn’t improve a player’s game, everybody’s time – the coach’s and the attendees’ - has been wasted!

There had to be a better way of coaching these players. So I worked on solutions to these three problems, and had very encouraging results when I tested them in my SWCA courses.

The key ideas were, firstly, to use a gentle barrage of questions to lead the players’ thinking to where I wanted it to be; secondly, to simplify the improvement process by getting players to focus only on the few things that would make a big difference to their game (usually only three!); and thirdly, to use new ways of approaching 4-ball breaks with very simple rules (usually only three!) that could be easily remembered in a game.

Part of the solution to the ‘sticky’ problem was writing comprehensive course manuals running to c.50 pages. Players liked them, and often suggested I should publish them. Then along came the pandemic and lockdown, and it was a great opportunity to turn my coaching manuals into books to share my ideas with a much wider audience.

My first book was about how to use bisques effectively. Every player I coached complained of wasting bisques, but the available resources only offered general guidelines.  I felt there had to be a simple set of rules that could be used, and I managed to find it. So, that was my first book, Getting Maximum Bang For Your Bisques, sorted!

My second book came from my view that triple peels were seen as the province of A-Class players. Why should they have all the fun? I completed my first triple when my handicap was 6, and saw no reason for B-Class players not to attempt them. But available resources seemed to be written for A-class players with superior shot skills to B-Class players. I could never get beyond page 25 of Wylie; it was too complex. So I wrote Taming The Triple to simplify the triple for novice peelers and enable them to share in the fun!

Originally, I had planned a third book to follow on from Maximum Bang, covering building and running 4-ball breaks without bisques. But my thinking had developed and I had learned much from writing Taming The Triple. So, instead of writing an entirely new book, I decided to rewrite Maximum Bang and combine it with the core content from the planned third book.  And this is now Bisques, Breaks and Beyond.

The reason I became a coach was to give something back and help players improve and get more enjoyment from the game we love. The books are a big part of that.

The books are available from the Croquet England Shop

Back To Top