POINTING AND SHOOTING

The perfect throw/Feet/Grip/Backswing/Release/Your other hand/Landing Spots

 

We are going to look at the elements of the perfect throw for pointing Updated 7th July 2020

Feet

Grip

Backswing

Release

Other Hand

Landing Spots

Playing

We have looked at the history of the game, the surface it is played on now we are getting to the real stuff. Throwing a boule. This section is looking at pointing. There are five main areas to cover the throw. Feet, Grip, Backswing, Release and what on earth you other hand is doing. Many coaches split the release into release and follow through. We will cover it in one note later.

 

So lets start with the Feet, Feet and Feet.

Feet

 

Everything needs good foundations, be it, a building, a bridge or a sports player.

If you can achieve the base it allows you to concentrate on the task in hand without falling over when you are trying to carry, hit, bend or throw something. It all starts with the feet.

Petanque is an interesting sport as far as feet go, it’s name is thought to derive from the French term Feet together. The concept of throwing from a circle allows the player to develop their own stance whilst keeping in the confines of a limiting area. The introduction of new plastic circles, once rare, now commonplace gives plenty of room for manoeuvre. Times in the past witnessed the jokers of the game drawing a circle 35cm diameter to constrict those players with a wide stance. Not really in the spirit of the game but jolly funny to witness. The wide stance player looking like someone had tied their shoe laces together and was just waiting for the swaying shooter to hit the ground like a felled tree. Different times….. Anyway the vast expanse of the new 50cm circles give plenty of room and allow a vast range of feet styles to be accommodated. Some players even stand on the edge of the circle just in case it blows away. It could be particularly windy and they use both feet to hold it down. Rest assured no matter how windy the player may think it might be, this is not allowed and feet must be completely in the circle without touching the edge.

It is best to have both feet flat on the ground when throwing, back to foundations. The throw can be controlled with the player secure in the knowledge they will be grounded and balanced throughout the throw. Some players do lift portions of the foot as they release the boule, normally the heel when pointing. I think it comes from a knee bend being part of the throw and the spring at the last minute gives the boule an extra bit of lift. More in the mind of the player than the boule. Mostly it is just a habit they have got into and it does little harm. However, what if your foot position stops you from effectively playing a shot. Now that is something more serious to the player looking to improve. Being on tip toe will generally tip the player forward. The very act of being on tip toe sends signals to the brain, blimey now we are getting serious, and shifts the balance so the attitude of the body is forward. The balance of the body will ensure if a fall takes place it is generally forward. That is why accidents involving slipping over when your feet shoot forward and generally more serious than a slip forward. You are vulnerable when you fall backwards as you have little protection. What has this got to do with Petanque?

The shot that suffers most when you are on tip toe is the high lob. This is the shot where the boule is powered up to a height until it loses its direction as gravity takes over and the boule falls in a steep angle to the jack and stops in the general area. The boule can reach great heights and it is a shot that needs practice. The shot requires solid stance. Both feet will need to be flat on the floor at the start for the shot to be successful. A lean back, just slightly. will help power the boule into the air. If you are on tip toe the lean back will be diminished and the height of the boule will be affected dramatically. If you feel the need to end up on tip toe then so be it, your balance maybe affected but it is the start where you need to plant your feet securely. The high lob can be used on an assortment of pistes, deadly on a fast piste if the ground is sloping up away from you and of course deep gravel pistes. If you hear a player discussing their failure on deep pistes it could be a clear indication they have not sorted their feet out.

Grip

Get a grip!

We are looking at the aspects of the throw when pointing. The reality is the player throwing the boule only has control of the boule while they are holding and throwing it. All the leaning over in the circle and scuffing the feet once the boule has left the hand is irrelevant, amusing, but irrelevant.  The boule will take the course you gave it, apart from the odd kick off a stone etc. So how do you increase the control of the boule. Earlier we have looked at the correct size of boule. Using the correct size will enable you to hold the boule through the backswing. Be patient we will look at  backswing later. When you arm brings the boule forward it is very important the boule does not slip in the hand. This can lead to the player gripping the boule more firmly during the throw. When the grip is applied it can be very difficult to then let the boule go.  The throw from backswing to release is over very quickly. Trying to grip a slipping boule during the throw will cause the throw to be jerky and cause elbow and wrist issues. So with your own boule, after you have warmed up, hold it in your hand palm uppermost to ensure a good grip and a comfortable hold on the boule. Settle the boule into the hand. The boule should fit in the hand so it does not feel like it is slipping out of the hand when held at arms length with the palm facing down as in the photo.  The boule should rest on the fingers when the boule is being thrown so as the arm comes forward the centrifugal force acting on the boule is pushing the boule onto the fingers. This will lead to a rolling off the finger tips as the boule is released and backspin occurs naturally. The stiffness of the fingers can create more or less backspin. This is a trick most top player’s use to deadly effect. It can be done with practice and can be a useful tool on fast pistes when you want the boule to land and roll. If you have heard the term “soft hands” that is what they are talking about. Generally, if you just let the science take over you will see backspin happening naturally. Relax and let the boule do the work is a mantra I use a lot when playing. The thumb should not be used in the throw. A common mistake is using too bigger boule for your hand so the thumb is required to hold the boule during the throw. As the boule leaves the hand it will drag on the thumb and this can cause side spin on the boule. All very well but be prepared to see the boule spin off at an angle when it hits the ground. A correct throw will see the boule spinning backwards as it leaves the hand.

Little tip. To settle the boule in the hand cup the palm upwards and let the boule find its natural place. Some players pick up a boule as if they are grabbing Pick and Mix from Woolworths (Ask some one older) The grab then turns into a throw and the boule choses which finger it is going to get its back or side spin from. Remember you are in control so let the boule settle before turning the throwing hand over.

Backswing

How do you make the boule go straight?

Well you can hang on to it a bit longer! It is all about the backswing. Now we always at this point in the coaching tips, pop off to a couple of other sports to make the point. Golf is always a great friend of our sessions. Think of a golf swing. Is the club brought back right over the players head just for power, well, yes but also direction. The work done on the practice pitches is all about a smooth straight swing. Power but also a controlled direction of hit.   The same with archery. The pull back of the bow is to give maximum control over the arrow. Once it leaves the bow the arrow is on its own.

So back to petanque, the boule can be controlled by holding it longer, that does not mean jiggling it up and down in your hand or doing some strange doggy paddle motion before you throw. It is all about the back swing. Some players like to bring their arm forward before the backswing to line up the shot, feel free but it is the route your arm takes from it’s furthest point of the backswing that assists the throw. The further you bring your arm back the longer you will have influence over the boule and the straighter it will go. The height and release will usually be the same as you usually throw but by bringing your arm back further than you would normally would will bring benefits. During the cold months it is important to warm up and keep warm when playing so the extra backswing does not pull those muscles but you may find it easier than you think. The main benefit will be your boule will go straighter but you will also find it goes further with the same effort. This can put people off the backswing, especially on fast terrains as the boule rocket down the piste. It is a technique that needs to be mastered. It is not a fix all solution but a step to better play. So with your own boule, after you have warmed up, hold it in your hand palm uppermost to ensure a good grip and a comfortable hold on the boule. Make sure you are balanced and comfortable on your feet. Turn your hand over and bring your arm back to where you would normally throw from. Now bring your arm back around three to four inches more and then throw your boule. You may find the boule goes further than you imagined and this is something you will need to correct when playing. Remember to move the chosen landing spot closer to you to start with. Your arm and shoulder may feel strange as you pull your arm back to this new position. If it hurts do not do it.  It will feel a little odd as the effort required to throw your boule is reduced but with all new techniques prepare for your game to decline before it improves. Side benefits will be those 10 metre jacks will no longer be out of reach. If you practice the back swing with a nice straight forward throw it may come in very handy on deeper pistes or long jacks. The practice of this shot may not replace your own throw but it could give you another tool to get out when you need it. Think control, think backswing and be quietly pleased with the results.

So to recap. Get comfortable with your feet in the circle. Get a nice grip on the boule with no use of the thumb. Backswing. Straight release. Your other hand should be behind you. 5 simple steps to a good throwing action.

Release

To recap, you have sorted out your feet, in the circle and with a firm balanced base. The grip on the boule is good with no involvement of the thumb. You have brought your throwing arm back and during the throw have kept it nice and straight. The longer you keep the boule moving in a straight line when you are holding it the straighter it will go once you have let go of it. Well that’s it then, off goes the boule in a straight line. Strange because it keeps going straight until it hits that stone that sends it sideways. Oh another stone! Could it be all that good work early in the throw has been undone at the very last moment? If the boule disappears during its flight behind your arm or hand as you let it go then the throw has been sabotaged at the last minute by a poor release. I simple way to check it to keep your hand still at the moment of release. Your arm should be in a straight line from the backswing. If you are bringing your hand across your body this will give a side spin to the boule. Not a lot but enough to sent it off course once it hits the ground. Some players swing their arm outwards as they throw. This has the same effect but not as common as the arm across the body. It can seem natural to pull your arm across your body but this places spin on the boule.   You have seen golfers practicing putting without a club. The same can be done with a petanque throw. Just put your feet together and with backswing bring your arm forward and straight with a nice follow through. Your hand should be straight at release. Give a few swings to get the idea when you are practicing. Palm should be facing down and no twisting of the wrist should occur during the throw. As mentioned in the backswing section The boule should rest on the fingers when the boule is being thrown so as the arm comes forward the centrifugal force acting on the boule is pushing the boule onto the fingers. This will lead to a rolling off the finger tips as the boule is released and backspin occurs naturally. The stiffness of the fingers can create more or less backspin. This is a trick most top player’s use to deadly effect. It can be done with practice and can be a useful tool on fast pistes when you want the boule to land and roll. If you have heard the term “soft hands” that is what they are talking about.

the final phase for a successful throw

Other Hand

What the other hand is doing

So we have looked at the feet, firm foundations remember. Then we looked at the grip, then the backswing and release. All the focus has been on the throwing arm so far but the question is. What is the other hand doing? It could be in you pocket keeping warm but it is a useful tool in the petanque throw. Generally it should be behind you to give you balance as the other arm throwing the boule comes forward. Some thoughts are it should be held out sideways to give stability to the shoulders to stop you spinning as your throwing arm comes forward. It maybe ok to get juniors used to keeping the shoulders square to the throwing arm but in my view caused more issues than it solves. The arm should be behind you. I personally tend to twist my arm along its length slightly to give it rigidity. This stops it flapping around. It should be holding any other boule you have left to throw. I know a lot of players only hold the boule they are throwing and then turn around to get the next boule to throw but this seems a lot of activity. It also confuses the issue if you have to play two boule in succession. If you play a good boule then you would like to repeat it. Walking to the back of the piste to get a boule and then coming back to the circle is not a good idea. You should be looking forward to the mark made by your first boule, to fill it and to play your next boule.

If you are playing singles or doubles then you will have 3 boule in your hands. One in your throwing hand and two more in your other hand at the start of an end. If you have a habit of keeping your boule in front of you when you throw this will cause you to topple forward as you throw. A boule weighing approx. 700 grams means as you throw your boule you will have 2.1 kilos of steel pulling you forward. Not an idea balance.

So to recap. Get comfortable with your feet in the circle. Get a nice grip on the boule with no use of the thumb. Backswing. Straight release. Your other hand should be behind you. 5 simple steps to a good throwing action.

So we have looked at the throw but there is one factor vital to a successful boule delivery. Where the boule lands. This is the Landing Spot.

This session draws the attention to the most sought after place in the country for us boule players. No, not the Bar, but the landing area! Many players get bad kicks when their boule land on large stones on the surface or a brick level with the surface and look skyward as if some evil boule god is wreaking revenge for past sins. It is a simple matter of physics to place the boule in your hand close to the jack. You have to throw the boule at the correct weight so it ends up at jack length. The direction in which you throw the boule depends on any slope on the piste. On a perfect level piste the spot the boule lands together with the weight and direction of throw will depend on the finished position of the boule. Simple? Well it is fairly simple but pistes have many obstacles. Some are in plain sight and some are hidden below the surface and will deflect your boule away from the intended path. When we go around the country we try to pass on to new players the circle is for throwing from, but, you can walk out of it if you wish! You can walk up the piste and have a glance around to see any areas of bare rock, large stones or deep patches of gravel. You only have a minute to throw your boule but a trained eye can soon learnt to spot potential bad areas. Do not day dream while the opposition are throwing, take a look at how their boule reacts when it lands. You can even test the potential landing area if required before you throw the Cochonnet. (FIPJP Rules Article 10). Once you have looked at the area you intend to land upon the key is then to land there! Then, if you have worked out the right place, your boule will take its heavenly course to the jack and gently nestle beside it like an old friend. That is of course if you want to get that close. Many players will try to aim to stop their boule in an area 6 to 12 inches from of the jack.

To practise, just draw some circles, approximately 10 inches or 25 cm diameter on the ground, (or you can use string or old washing line circles. Use a thin line so it does not affect the boules travel at a suitable place from the throwing circle and practise landing in them.

Landing spots!

The landing spot is critical to a successful pointed boule.  What if there is something in your chosen spot? Do not worry, what about changing your shot if the desired landing spot is occupied by a boule or by a dodgy looking area on the piste. This could be a deep area of gravel, a soggy area of piste or a clearly obvious stone sticky up out of the surface of the piste or laying on the top of the piste. Now we all know we cannot kick those stones off the piste when we are playing, don’t we?

 

Anyway, the issue is that, if your landing spot is not available you will need to pick another place to land and adjust your shot accordingly. No, not just throw and hope! Pick another spot and choose a new throw. This will be higher or lower trajectory than the throw you would have used. It is physics, do not blame me it is just a fact. If you want someone to blame then Isaac Newton will do. If the length of the landing spot from the circle changes the arc of the throw will change. You could throw the boule at the same height and land in the new place but the reaction when the boule hits the ground at a different angle will mean the distance the boule travels will change. Eyes completely glaze over. Do not worry you know we always get there in the end.

When I am warming up before the start of play I usually throw my boule onto a chosen landing spot and then repeat the throw with the rest of my boule. The aim is to land all three boule in the same place. Two advantages to this. You can get your eye in and the throw sorted out and you only have one hole to fill in before you turn around and continue your warm up in the other direction. The first boule will show you how the boule will roll after impact with the piste. The next two boule should kick off when they hit the hole the first one made. This means you have repeated the shot so good news and anyone watching will think you are a one boule wonder. That is not a problem.  The throwing of boule before you start to play is warm up. Some players confuse this with practice. It is not practice. Practice is best done on your own or with players in a delegated practice time. Anyway, moving on. My warm up routine rarely involves a jack. Many would say my general play does not involve one either but that is just rude.

 

My point is, the warm up is to get your arm moving in the practiced way. But what if your landing spot in the game is blocked. Well luckily you have practiced away from a competitive situation the following exercise.

 

Three landing spots!

Place a jack at 6m from the circle and point to the jack. Each boule must land 50cm away from each other on a line to the jack. You can do this by placing a circle over the last landing spot ruling that area unsuitable for landing a point there. The first point should be a low rolling shot. The second boule should be a ½ lob and the last point should be a high lob so you are not rolling over the circles placed in position. Keep going at this distance until you are happy with the outcome of the different shots and then move the jack 7 metres from the circle and repeat at 8 and 9metres.

Keep doing this and when it comes to a game situation you can change your shot according to the layout of the obstacles on the ground. The added benefits are 1, You can switch to a different height shot if you favoured shot is not working. 2, If there is an overhanging tree or branch then your high lob will not work due to height restrictions. 3, The different terrain may like a lower or higher throw and you can switch into that type of throw at any time rather than walk away wishing you had more shots to your petanque toolbox.

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