Saturday, 12 August 2017

Petanque: Holding the Boule

Ok, the first question you probably have after picking up a boule is "How should I hold the boule and throw?"

Well, the picture above shows the most common "grip" a petanque.

You do not need to grip very tightly, just enough to not let the ball drop. Why? This is so you can release the ball easily. The ball should leave via your fingertips. This is very important.

You can view a few videos here to start off.

- Marco Foyot tres excellent training video (in Dutch but very comprehensive!)
- English Petanque Association (EPA) training video (finally a training video in English!)

Tips for Beginners:

Backhand throw. 

1. Why backhand throw? This allows you to be able to "backspin" the boule so as to control how far the distance the ball should roll. If you forward roll - like in bowling - the boule will just run on until out of steam.

2. Forward momentum. Anybody can pick up a boule and throw. But how to NOT drop dead the ball in front of you and gain distance??? Well, crook your wrist back a bit and at the same time, pull your arm back to give it a swing. The more swing there is the more "forward momentum" you are giving your boule. It WILL roll further.

3. Height. How high should I throw my boule? Well, with conventional wisdom, you should release the boule "shoulder height" each time. That's the beginner's "gentle swing and release" way. As you progress and want to control the boule more, this release height will change.

4. Stopping the boule. Two ways. A: Throw it just with sufficient force so it will not over-reach its target spot. B: Use your fingers to give the ball some "tarek" (pull back or back spin). This is why the boule HAS TO leave by your fingertips.

Tips for Advanced Players:

1. High Lob. You have probably admired top players and want to learn how they HIGH LOB so well. High lobbing has the advantage of  taking the "nature of the playing ground" out of the equation. This especially useful when the playing on gravel when tiny stones can affect the roll of your boule. It is also effective against uneven ground.

High lobbing. Palm up and outwards.

How to be good at High Lobbing?

Well, one obvious question is: Do you have ball sense??? Because one method requires it a lot, the other not so much.

Method 1: The FEEL method

The FEEL method plays on your ball sense and how well you are able to control YOUR boule: its weight, dimensions, etc. Folks with good ball sense will be able to HIGH LOB with a boule of any size and shape!

With the FEEL method, the boule rests on the crease line of your palm.

Folks like Christian Fazzino and Mickel Loy do the feel method pretty well. As does Marco Foyot.

Christian Fazzino getting ready to point.
Michel Loy getting ready to high lob.

Method 2: The PALM OUT method

Now, this PALM OUT method, I feel is a technique. A "technique" is something anybody can learn if they just spend time on it. You do not need so much "natural" ball sense although having it help heaps in petanque. But it can also be said that folks with ball sense might end up doing things their own way, neglecting proper technique!!! Remember, techniques help win games under pressure. Natural talent only win games spectacularly (haha).

With the PALM OUT method, you end up with your palm facing the sky or horizon after a throw.

Instead of flicking your wrist, you more or less keep your hand cupped.

You will find that this method is great especially for near distances such as 6-7 m, which many players have difficulty with after playing between 8-9 m often.

With this method, you are basically, allowing the ball to slip out of your hand and do a "high" arc to the ground.

Practice with various distances to get it right. With this method, the usual problem is relaxing and forgetting to give momentum to the boule especially trying to reach further distance. You do not want the boule to end up looking like a dead pigeon at your feet!!!


As you progress, you will realize that the grip pressure on the boule changes. 

What boule size you use will affect your grip and roll during swing back and follow-thru.
This pix shows a bigger than normal boule. Normal = average = 72mm/690g.
Consider moving to smaller boules as you advance. More tricks with it.

As a beginner, folks will tell you to grip the boule lightly. This is true to a certain extent. As you learn (and want) to control the boule more, this grip pressure will change.

1. If you are a DROP & ROLL beginner player, you are unlikely to alter your grip pressure much.
2. If you play on a gravel surface and is tired of tiny stones affecting your play, you might begin to want to control the spin of you boule more. In this way, your grip pressure will change.
3. When you want to affect the "flight" of your boule, again, your grip pressure will change.
4. If you want to stop the boule better, again your grip pressure will change.
5. If you use the CRANE SCHOOL of gripping a boule, then you grip pressure will be different from another player who uses another style. Folks like Diego Rizzi (Italy) and Sriboonping (Thailand) uses this type of grip.

Maintaining grip hold, controlling grip pressure, spin and flight of the boule will allow you to land and stop the boule anywhere each time.

In high lobbing, maintaining a firm grip hold is very important to effect two things: 1) Gaining height; 2) Avoiding "sticky" ball and landing way short. This begs the question: What is "maintaining firm grip hold" as opposed to grip pressure?

Maintaining firm grip hold is keeping your grip shape but the pressure the same. That is the fingers are stiffened to the grip shape and the boule is still lightly help in the palm....kind of turning your palm into a cup of a catapult like those medieval war machines. In this way, you can use your arm as a catapult and traject the boule anywhere you want. You can even project the boule high without having it "stick" to your hand.

In fact, maintaining a firm grip hold is very important esp in shooting the boule especially when your swing is the quick type (like Marco Foyot's or Claudy Weibel or Christian Fazzino).

Adopting a firm grip hold at crucial times allow you to point your boule all to the same spot repeatedly, unaffected largely by pressure situations (when your arm and hand might soften in response to all that). Just a trick to overcome paralysis when it matters.

Do you know that you can play petanque without your thumb and little finger? Try it! The most important fingers for petanque are the middle three.

So, whether you put your thumb to the side of the boule or pinching the index finger, it is a personal preference AS WELL as technique. Experiment to see what differences that bring to your game.

A closed grip where thumb is placed on index finger 1st knuckle line.
Use of knuckle lines can help regain accuracy in long throws/shootings.
Move thumb to third knuckle line for longer distance shots. 

And in terms of "shooting", the position of the thumb does affect distance and accuracy. Again, this depends on your grip and grip pressure. Pay attention to this. Many player have difficulty hitting 9m and beyond (especially when the jack gets hit and flies further away). And many top players practice with heavier boules in winter to get ready for the many competitions in summer.

Next: Game Play

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