French officials have flown over on Concorde today to inspect the terrain and I’m pleased to confirm the Mulled Wine Melee is on tomorrow!
Bring any leftover Christmas food (that’s still in date) and leave your car at home!
In this final instalment (for now) we discuss the importance of practice. Hope you’ve enjoyed the articles, found them useful and a big thank you goes to our resident writer.
There is a school of thought which advises beginners: Learn to point well first and then to shoot. With respect, if that worked the French would teach beginners like that, and as far as I can tell, they do not.
I ask a simple question; have you seen a competent shooter who can’t point?
Shooting and pointing both involve the boule travelling through the air and landing on a pre-determined spot. It is as simple as that and the less time the boule spends on the ground, the less it will deviate.
One warm up technique that works for me is to start with a target boule at about two metres and try to carreau every throw. Simply loop the shot and drop it on the target boule on the front lower quadrant. If you can hit the boule , you can hit the donnee. Move back a metre and do the same again. Note where your hand starts and finishes. Check that your swing is smooth and parallel to the line and not across your body. Aim to release the boule cleanly. Do not grip it.
On terrains with a lot of limestone dust you may find that the skin of your palm dries and loses sensitivity. The rules prohibit ‘wetting’ the boule but you will see players blowing into their fist to slightly moisten the palm. Most of us carry a chiffon , usually a decent piece of ‘chammy’ leather. This is the boulists ‘sucky blanket’, in most cases a fetish which, personally, I can’t play without.
Cock the wrist backward and use the fingers as a sling, relying on angular momentum to keep the boule in your fingers. Note how far it is rolling on different grades of the terrain after landing.
Practice throwing the coche accurately to the distance you want. Hold it between thumb and index and apply backspin to it much as you would a boule to stop it. There is little point in throwing a coche which bounces to nine and a half meters and you then point two meters short of it and the poor old shooter can barely see it.
With some teams the shooter always throws the coche, normally to a distance where he/she is comfortable shooting. Logic would suggest that the pointer should do it provided that they don’t assume that further is better, more difficult for the opposition or ” I like a long coche”. All very well but there are three of you in the team. Good coche throwing is equally as important as good pointing. Practice it.
When pointing , practice looking at the donnee and not the coche as you release the ball. The donnee is the target and not a random piece of terrain where the boule might land, somewhere between you and the coche. Some players are known to practice at home by throwing the boules into a bucket or a piece of drainpipe. It is also very useful to have someone standing behind your arm and checking the line of your swing as you practice.
As with any sport an element of luck is required and as in all things (except the lottery) the more you practice the luckier you become.
In this next instalment, the benefits of shooting and taking the advantage are discussed.
Point or Shoot
The technique for winning a game can be summed up in simple terms as; always try to have more boules in your hand than the opposition at any given time.
One of the first pieces of advice I was given by a French playing partner was, “It can only count if it is on the terrain”. In my opinion a good triplet needs at least two players who can shoot reliably. If you can field three players who have a flexible range of interchangeable skills, you have an advantage…in my time playing I have rarely if ever met anyone who can only shoot but there are many who will say “I’m a pointer, I can’t really shoot.”
Shooting should not be the tactic of last resort when your pointer and milieur have played all their boules without success. A good shot is worth two potential points, one gained and one removed. Good pointing is a vitally important aspect of the game but it is not the only way to get your boules to a scoring position. Logic would suggest, therefore, that a new player should learn to shoot from the start.
Playing the advantage could be simply described as the art of having more boules in hand than your opponents. For example, if they win the toss you potentially have the last boule. Try to play to keep it that way.
The main aim is to acquire, augment and consolidate the advantage during the course of play. A common fault in casual games and sometimes competition is often the inexperienced pointers belief that it is their job to beat the opponents point boule and often use all their boules trying. The poor old shooter is then left to navigate around four of their own boules against five in hand by the opposition. A general but most certainly not a rigid rule is to point one and if it is second…shoot the ‘on’ boule.
Consider this scenario. They point first and, if you shoot accurately, they have nothing and you have one but, even if you play a winning poin they still have at least a second and a potential shot on for two. As a general guide , if the opposition point first and it is close in front, shoot it “Boule devant ,Boule d’argent”. If you leave it there and point past it, it will come back to bite you. You must work to avoid a situation where a good shot can gain the opposition more than one. Of course, there are times when to get two good boules in front you will deliberately point the first one short and play again.
There is a classic example worth watching on YouTube of two top class triples Madagascar V Thailand. The team from Thailand put a good first point in. It was shot out and instead of shooting back they pointed again, won back the game, and again it was shot out. Unbelievably this continued for the complete end , six points shot , 6 – 0 .
The next instalment is regarding practice.
Please remember to add the Mulled Wine Melee on 27th December to your diaries. Bring family, friends and any tasty Christmas food leftovers!
Over the next few weeks I’ll be posting some articles written by one of our very own regulars to provide you with some Petanque reading material on these cold & dark winter nights. The first is titled ‘Attitudes to the Game’. The second is about whether to ‘point or shoot?’ and, finally, ‘practice’. Hope you enjoy them and thank you to the author.
Attitudes to the game
There are several social aspects to the game in France. There is the village fete where there will be un concours where many of the players will not have picked up a boule since last year. There is the family who come out on Sunday afternoon after lunch for a leisurely game with friends. The retired regulars who play under the trees from four o’clock every afternoon until it’s time for dinner .There are the club members, the licence holders ,many of whom play at a good level and are involved in competitions at club, town, department, region and national levels. This is where the top international talent is developed and youngsters who show promise and a desire to work at their game are helped to progress.
However it must be said that many of the top players were introduced to the game by their parents and are often third generation players weaned on the game from an early age, so we are not doing too badly but perhaps the way we sometimes approach the game is not altogether conducive to producing a high standard of play.
Leaving aside the sheer difference in player numbers and our short summers, unfortunately the way the game is often played in the UK at club level does little to raise any excitement or attract youngsters . It sometimes resembles a game of marbles played with boules, with eight or more boules around the coche at the completion of an end. The problem seems to lie partially in the tendency to play an overly defensive game. Many pointers can roll a ball eight meters on a flattish terrain with amazing accuracy to beat a close point, but it can be rather boring to watch and unless the game in this country can attract more young players, it may become moribund. Young potential players appear to view Petanque as merely a grassless version of flat or crown green bowls, a game for old people.
Shooting is a vital feature of the game. Good shooting wins games and makes for a more entertaining game for both players and spectators. It is no coincidence that the francophone countries around the world produce many top class players who favour the attacking approach. Why then do we not make it a coaching priority? They do in France. Of course, the fact that in France petanque gets a good deal of exposure on Television goes a long way to exposing the importance of shooting…
Next article….’to point or shoot?’
Well what a brilliant evening! Tasty food and good company. Over on our corner of the table, in between courses, we were discussing how great it is to be part of a club with so many lovely members & their family and friends, many of whom were able to come last night.
Really enjoyed the speeches that summed up perfectly another fun year we’ve had taking part in festivals, new competitions and winning the league.
Thank you to the Olive Tree for feeding us so nicely. A big thank you to Pam, Neill and Roy for organising us and ensuring we got the right dishes and had full glasses.
Here are some pictures;
December is already upon us…where did this year go? In fact, we didn’t find time to hold a melee competition.
That’s no good so to make up for it on Sunday 27th December* at 11am we are holding the Mulled Wine Melee. A club competition that will combine a few games of petanque with mulled wine and mince pies.
Bring family, bring friends and come and join in the fun! The competition is open to everyone.
Please add the date to your diary and see you all this Tuesday for our club dinner. Can’t wait!
*In the case of rain stops play we will move the melee to the following Sunday, 3rd January 2016.