Practicing Petanque

Some methods to improve your game.

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Playing Tips

Practicing Petanque

Rules to Remember




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West Coast Tournaments


Practice to Improve - Try Something New

Many people will practice for tournaments by playing games. It is true that you will strengthen your throwing apparatus this way if you play enough. And if you are aware of what is happening on the ends, you will have opportunities to improve your strategy aspects of the game. But many players find that they are not improving much during the tournament season. Their throws are not more accurate, and their available throwing styles remains stuck at one or two throws. If this is the case for you, you will need to set aside some time to practice specific throws in order to improve.

Say for example, that your one good throw is a standing rolling throw - similar to how you bowled for years. But at the tournaments, even though your throws start out straight, they seem to deviate too often and you just can't get close enough to gain the point. Think about the surface. Is it strewn with small gravel that is slowing up your boule, or causing it to deviate? Are there slopes that are causing the deviation? It may be that you would be better off doing a semi-lob eliminating some of the surface influence. Take a few minutes after each game, or between games and go off to the side and practice doing semi-lobs. Instead of dropping your boule within a few feet of the throwing circle, practice tossing it out further - 6 or 8 feet in front of you. Pay special attention to how your hand releases so that you do no introduce side spin. How does the boule travel after it hits the ground? How far does it go?

Try different landing spots and see what the resulting roll is. Don't worry about accuracy at first, you are developing a new throw! A new tool in your petanque toolbox, that you can take out as needed. By practicing new throwing techniques, you will be ready for the various situations that every game of petanque will present to you.

If you are not ready to add new throws, but have become somewhat frustrated with your present throwing style, perhaps you can improve on it with some practice away from games. Place a target bouchon at the distance that you would like to improve at. And throw focused on what you would like to do. If you want your boule to go straight to the target and stop a few inches in front. Then focus on that and make your throw. Continue throwing until you accomplish your goal. When you make the throw that you want, stop for a moment and think about how that felt. Remember that feeling and do it again. You are training your body to make that throw. It needs to feel what is required to make the throw in order to do it consistently. Once you have mastered the throw - and it could take quite a few throws to do so! - try another throw that has been difficult for you. Always practice to improve those throws that you have been having trouble with. If you can eliminate those areas of weakness, your game will become stronger and stronger - and more fun as you are able to accomplish increasingly complex throws.

Learn a different thow!
Practice for real games!

Practice Real Game Situations - Increasing Versatility

It is not uncommon for people to practice shooting, or pointing and do really well during practice and then get to a game and be disappointed by their performance. Why is it that we can do so well in practice but not in a real game? Well, it might be because in practice we controlled the placement of the target, and made lots of throws until we got the range and then were able to repeat the accurate throws thereafter. Those early throws are a luxury that we don't have in a game. That darned target keeps changing in a game, and we just have a couple of boules to find it. By the time we start narrowing in on it, the end is over and we are throwing to a new target going the other direction.

So, though it is important to do repeated throws at the same target to get a feel for what it takes to make an accurate throw under those controlled conditions, it is also important to practice a more realistic situation - that of a changing target.

Here is a way to practice for that that I have found helpful as well as fun. If you are a pointer and wanting to improve your pointing skills, after you have practiced your throwing at the same target for a while do a mock game with yourself. Start with your three boules. Throw out the jack. Then throw a pointing throw at the jack. With your next boule you will either shoot or point - if the first boule is within a few inches of the jack (you decide what distance from the jack will demand a shot) you will assume the role of a shooter and shoot it out. If you succeed in shooting it out, point your last boule in. If you failed to shoot it out, then you must decide whether to shoot with your last boule or point it in - depending on which you feel you have a better chance to succeed at. I have even made this exercise a little game - pointer against shooter and kept score. Being a squatting thrower when I point, this exercise forces me to squat to throw first, then leap up to assume the role of the shooter.

This exercise is good because I know that many players have a hard time shifting from pointing to shooting - they do require different throwing forms, and even different mental attitudes. After you have played the Pointer vs. Shooter Game a few times you will find it much easier to shift from one to the other.

Another exercise game that you can play to increase your versatility is to play practice games with friends letting them play however they want, but tell them at the start that you will be throwing one high lob, one semi-lob and one shooting boule every end. I have found this to be a lot of fun! You have to decide when to use each of your throws. It can get a bit funny as you look for a good target to shoot at, or try to lob when that really isn't called for. This could be called the Three Types of Throw Game.

The Importance of Being Decisive.

When I first started playing petanque I could simply tell the boule "go there" and it would. I'm not kidding, I made amazing throws just by deciding where I wanted the boule to go and it went there. How did I do that?! Ah, the innocence of a newbie! But it does show the importance of confidence in the body's ability to deliver when asked to.

So how come it isn't so easy for me now? For some it is because they don't think about what they want their body to do for them... for me it is too much thinking. I see every slope, pebble, acorn, guard boule, and nuance of the end. Should I lob for that spot over there, or shoot? Should I deflect off that boule to right, or come in from the left? Will that slope bring me down behind all those guard boules? For a while, I was nearly immobilized by the options! Mindful of the 1 minute rule, I would eventually just make a toss - nearly always a poor throw as my body tried to make sense of my indecisive mind. So instead of getting more successful throws, I got less. The more I played the less successful I became.

There are two solutions if you find yourself in the same situation. You can have someone more familiar with the terrain or with more experience tell you where to place your boule. I have done this at tournaments where I finally simply ask a more experienced player on my team to tell me exactly where they would like me to put the boule - and then I do as told. This works great! No indecision, and it allows you to concentrate on the throw.

Or you can decide for yourself what your throw will be. You simply decide, then throw. The way I do it, is I do the scanning of the surface - the acorns, the slopes, the position of the boules, then I decide on my throw, and pause a moment to be sure that it feels right, and then release my body to accomplish it. I find that if I have indeed decided on the throw, my body will usually deliver. It will make the adjustments for the obstacles and slopes just as it does when I ask it to walk down a street. So after many tournaments and a lot of practice, I am coming back to where I started - asking my body to make the boule "go there".

Focus, and throw!

Practice the Mental Side of the Game

Most players that take time to practice practice the physical aspect of the game. They spend some time refining their shooting, and pointing. But there is another aspect that needs practice too, and it could well be the most important aspect - the mental side of the game.

How often have you let the fact that your next throw could win or lose you the game affect your throw? Or for that matter the fact that your last throw was deflected by a stone you hadn't seen? Or something that your teammate said... These are all examples of the affects of our mental state at the time of throw can affect the quality of our throw.

So how does one gain the discipline to overcome such situations? Here are some suggestions that might help.

Try not to think about the level of competition, your last throw, or anything but the exact situation you find at the moment that you must make your throw. Go to the end and look at the lie of the boules, and think of it as a puzzle that you (and only you! since you have the next throw and it will change after you have done so) have an opportunity to solve. Decide what you want your throw to be, and put all your concentration into that throw. Nothing else matters at that moment, just the throw that you are about to make. Visualize how the boule will travel and where it will end up. And when you are convinced that it is the throw that needs to be made, make it. Watch the boule's progress until it stops. Then step out of the circle, and think about how it traveled. If it wasn't a perfect throw, think about how it should have traveled and what you will do next time to deliver it to the exact spot that you wanted it to go to.

There are no good throws and bad throws, only throws that go where you want them to, and throws that need correction next time.


Petanque Secret Portal!

Collecting Surface Data

Spending some time giving your mind some data from the surface in the pre-throw period will help you a lot too. You will notice that the top players tend to walk the line that they are about to throw. They are feeling the surface. One can feel the hardness of the surface, the subtle slopes, the rough areas. It helps to have soft soled shoes for this.

A Game for Improving Pointing

Here is a game that is used in Germany to improve pointing. It makes very simple modifications of the standard rules. First, no shooting - all throws must be pointing throws. Second, any boule that goes beyond the jack is dead. Otherwise, score as you would a normal game.

A boule in front of the jack is almost always in a better position than one in back, and this Pointing Game rewards that! Have your club pointers play this version of the game and watch their pointing improve!

Walk the line!