The intermediate range covers players who are roughly in the region from handicap 4 to 14. The notes below are taken from the Intermediate Coaching Sessions that Robin Brown kindly gave to an assortment of OUACC members during Trinity Term 2002.
Session 1This session was predominantly concerned with how to keep going with a 4-ball break, once it has been established, by overcoming poor pioneers, and by setting pioneers more accurately in the first place. There was also some discussion of the positioning of pioneers.
Once theme that ran throught he evening was not to become trapped into thinking that the pivot had to be in the middle of the lawn, and not to be afraid of swapping around which ball performed which role (generally called "swapping the pivot").
Reinforcing and replacing poor pioneers
A poor pioneer is one that is in a position that will reduce the likelihood of your running the hoop; for example, if it is on the wrong side of the hoop, or is a long way from the hoop. Even after a poor pioneer has been set, there are some simple steps that can often be taken to overcome it:
A method to offer support to a poor pioneer is to move the pivot over towards it, so that when you come to that hoop you will have two balls there. Even if they are not close to the hoop, this will make it much easier to get a rush to the ideal approach position, by using one ball, to get onto the rush-line of the other.
A second approach is to deliberately change pivot, positioning the old pivot as the new pioneer, and allowing the previous attempt to become the new pivot. This can be done with a split shot, either from somewhere in the lawn, or by rushing the pivot off to a convenient boundary, and sending it in from there.
Setting pioneers more accurately
Avoiding setting poor pioneers in the first place, was the next issue covered. This mainly boiled down to some simple steps that could be taken to reduce the distance from which the pioneer is being set, thereby increasing its accuracy.
Positioning the reception ball so as to give a useful rush out of the preceeding hoop is always a good idea, and it can enable you to rush it towards the pivot, and then to play the positioning shot from there, significantly closer to the destination hoop.
However, doing this then leaves a longer take-off, from the pivot to the next pioneer, than is necessary. An alternative, that both reduces both the setting distance for the advanced pioneer, and reduces the distance to next pioneer, is to rush the reception ball up to the pivot, and then to swap pivot by leaving the reception ball there and getting a good rush on the old pivot to a position of your choice, from which to stop it across to its hoop and approach the next pioneer and its rush-line. E.g.: coming out of 1-b, rush reception ball to pivot. Take-off to get a rush on the old pivot to 5 yds north of 2-b reception ball, then stop that across to 3-b, approaching the 2-b pioneer.
A further way to set shorter, more accurate pioneers is to consider setting some 'early'. Typical examples are to set 6 coming out of 3, 2-b coming out of 5 and Rover coming out of 3-b. A discussion of how 2-b is set early is given in the Session 2 notes, below.
4 ball break pioneer positions
The ideal place for the 4BB pioneers is somewhere that will enable you to secure the hoop, even if the preceeding part of your break has gone horribly wrong, thereby giving you a chance to regain control. That means placing the pioneers in positions from which you could make hoop approaches, without the complication of having to rely on getting onto specific rush-lines.
These ideal positions are generally about 3-4 ft in front of the hoop, 'on axis', on the playing side. Naturally, the positioning of the pioneers does not have to be precise to the nearest blade of grass, but instead there is a healthy margin of error within which it will still be comfortable to play the hoop approach. The 'area of acceptability', for the positioning of the pioneer, is about a yard or so in radius, and approximately centred on the ideal position and, if anything, biased slightly towards the expected direction of approach.
One pioneer that is an exception is 6. To reduce the distance when setting 1-b's pioneer it is more convenient to be come down the west* side of the peg, on the way to 6 than down the east. Consequently it is advantageous to have the 6 pioneer slightly west of the hoop's axis.
3 ball break pioneer positions
The rationale behind the positioning of 3BB pioneers is slightly different to the 4BB ones. The ideal positions for these is about a yard from the hoop, on the direction to the preceeding hoop. The reasoning is that again this doesn't leave you reliant upon getting rushes to any specific places, but does mean that even if you get no rush at all, and end up playing a split roll, say, all the way from 1-b to 2-b, at least you will be approaching the pioneer down its rush-line.
© 2019 Oxford University Association Croquet Club