Competitive croquet

 

By Austin Block

Two or three times a month, Adel Kamal ’11 works on his jump shot on a court in Pasadena with his father. However, this particular jump shot is nothing like those of his teammates on the JV basketball team. It’s a difficult skill that involves striking a croquet ball with a mallet to send the ball over a ball and through a wicket. Though it isn’t easy, “it’s probably the most fun shot to hit if you know how to do it,” he said.

As of last year, Kamal was ranked fifth in the nation in the youth division of the golf croquet rankings. He practices on weekends under the tutelage of his father, Dr. Mohammed Kamal, the winner of the Dec. 1 national golf croquet championship in West Palm Beach, Fla.

There are two distinctly different types of croquet: association croquet and golf croquet. Though association croquet is more popular in the United States, Kamal plays golf croquet because his father, who learned to play while growing up in Egypt, learned the game that was more popular there.

“It’s like chess on grass,” Kamal said. “It’s sort of a mental game and you have to come up with big plays. You feel the pressure but it’s such an easy-going game that you can still work through it. It’s fun.”

Two summers ago, he competed in the youth national championship and placed fifth in singles competition and third in doubles.

“As far as the competition goes, [it was] really competitive, people [were present] that played almost every day with the school like a normal sports team,” Kamal said.

Dr. Kamal taught his son the sport at a young age, and Kamal has been playing ever since. Dr. Kamal works with all three of his children individually on their croquet skills during their weekend practice sessions. Kamal’s younger brother was ranked sixth in the youth rankings last year and sometimes competes in doubles matches with his older brother. Kamal said his croquet game doesn’t interfere with his basketball schedule.

“I don’t practice croquet religiously,” he said. “It’s more of a hobby for me. I don’t really have it set. I usually plan it around free weekends and things like that.”

Everyone in the Kamal family plays croquet except for Kamal’s mother. He said croquet is a bonding experience for his family.

“We’ve bonded over it ever since my brother was born because that was the first time I got to share my croquet skills with someone,” he said. “Even before then I guess between me and my dad.”

Kamal recently played doubles with his younger sister in his father’s tournament, the 1st Annual Mohammed and Friends Croquet Tournament in Pasadena, placing second. David Burton ’11 and Noor Fateh ’11 also competed.

Prior to the tournament, Kamal had taken a one year “hiatus” from tournament play, though he continued to practice two to three times a month. A recent arm injury that required surgery has sidelined him in both sports.

“This is probably the longest I’ve gone without it for forever,” he said. “I definitely miss it. I’ll be back into it soon enough.”

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