✋ How to throw a high lob

MarcoFoyot_highLob_ZanesfieldAs a new petanque player, interested in improving his throwing form, I have a question.

When do you unwind your cocked wrist?

When you throw a high lob, during your backswing your wrist is really cocked — the hand holding the boule is curled up toward the underside of your forearm. And when you finish your throw, you’ve uncoiled that curled wrist so that your hand is open and your fingers are pointing up and out. Uncoiling that curled wrist is how you get backspin, retro, on the boule.

My question is

When does that cocked wrist get uncoiled?
Does it gradually uncoil as the swing progresses?
Or does it stay coiled during most of the swing, and only uncoil quickly at the end of the swing?

The answer (or at least, one answer) can be found in a YouTube video of a clinic that Marco Foyot taught at Amelia in 2012. In the video Marco demonstrates the motion of throwing a high lob. You have to watch closely. The demo starts at 4m 38s, and it is over in about 3 seconds.

Here are some stills from that video.

For the high lob, Marco doesn’t take a big backswing. (In fact, he doesn’t ever seem to use a big back swing.) He starts with his throwing hand and the boule low. In this picture, he’s just starting to raise his arm — he looks as if he’s going to hit the lady in the background with the back of his wrist.

The swing progresses. Higher. And higher. Note that in picture C, even when his wrist has been raised above his head, Marco’s wrist is still cocked.


Only when his arm at the very top of the swing, does Marco snap his wrist.


So that pretty much answers my question — the wrist uncoils at the end, with a snap.

Studying these pictures, I’ve noticed a couple of other interesting things. One of them is that Marco’s hand is very high — above his head — when he snaps his wrist and releases the boule. Here is a picture from a clinic he taught in Zanesfield, OH in September 2013.

The other is that Marco’s arm doesn’t seem to be moving in a swing or an arc from his shoulder. If you look at pictures A, B, and C, you will see that his hand is moving almost vertically straight up. That means that most of the force of the throw is UP — there is relatively little OUT.

That makes sense, but I’m going to have problems digesting it. I’m a big fan of Artem Zuev’s Art of Petanque blog. His advice to think of your throwing arm as a pendulum (a ball on a string) makes a lot of sense to me, and is a style that I’ve been trying to achieve. But Marco’s definitely not doing “ball on a string” when he throws a high lob.

One of the things that is hard to realize is just exactly how high a REALLY HIGH lob is. On YouTube, there is a nice video of Bruno Leboursicaud demonstrating a fantastically accurate high lob. In the video, you can’t see how high the lob is, but from the time it takes to come down, you know it must have been really high.

Fourtunately for us, Zanesfield Petanque has posted a video on its Facebook page showing Marco demoing a high lob during his clinic there. On his second throw (which you can see in the photo at the beginning of this post ) you can actually see how high his lob is.

Here is Marco at the World Championships in Thailand, in 1993.


✋ The first step in learning how to shoot

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Here is a suggestion for how to take the first step on the journey of learning how to shoot.

This little exercise is called “chasing the geese”. It will help to overcome your reluctance to shoot by showing that you can shoot, and even occasionally hit your target. It will help get you started on the road to shooting, practicing, and slowly improving.

Each morning, get up early. When the day is still new, go down to the park. A big open grassy area (like a soccer field) is ideal for your purpose. Take two boules with you.

When you arrive, throw the first boule a short distance. Shoot at it with the other boule. After you’ve made your throw, walk to the closer boule. Pick it up and shoot at the other boule. Then do it again. Walk to the closer boule, pick it up, and shoot at the other boule. Keep doing this.

When you throw and miss, next time move closer to the target boule and throw from a shorter distance. When you throw and hit, next time stand farther from the target boule and throw from a longer distance.

Pay attention to your form. Listen to your body. Notice what you are doing with your body when your shots work, and what you are doing when they don’t.

Do this for as long as you enjoy it and see yourself improving.

As you do this, you will start to have questions like “When I throw, what am I doing with my non-throwing arm? What should I be doing with it?” Ideally, a coach would answer those questions for you. If you don’t have a coach, read our post about how to throw a boule and watch Youtube videos of world-class shooters. Develop a theory about what you want to be doing when you throw. Then consciously try to put that theory into practice as you chase the geese.

✋ How to point

Here is one useful tip for effective pointing.

When you point, there are three spots that are important.

  • The first is the spot where the jack is sitting.
  • The second is the spot where you want your boule to come to rest. Following the old maxim of “boule devant, boule d’argent”, this spot is in front of the jack. There is no standard petanque term for this spot, so I call it the “parking spot”.
  • The third is the spot where you want your boule to hit the ground — the landing spot, the donnée. This spot is in front of the parking spot, so the boule can hit the ground and then roll into the parking spot.

The first rule of effective pointing is “Don’t aim for the jack”. Instead —

  • First, locate the jack.
  • Second, decide where — in front of that — you want your parking spot to be.
  • Third, decide where — in front of that — you want your donnée to be.

And then aim for the donnée.

This is one of the first things that any experience pointer will teach a new player. Here, for instance, is Marco Foyot.

After picking the parking spot, pick the landing spot.

After picking the parking spot, pick the landing spot.

Throw your boule to the landing spot - the donnée

Throw your boule to the landing spot – the donnée

... and let it roll to the parking spot.

… and let it roll to the parking spot.

You can watch Marco giving the pointing lesson on YouTube.

Deciding who goes first

When starting a game, tossing_for_the_throw_1how do you decide which team throws the first jack?

Most introductions to the game say that you toss a coin, and the team that wins the toss throws the first jack. Another method is to hold out two closed fists and ask “Which hand is holding the jack?” But there is another traditional method that you might not be familiar with.

The tossing_for_the_throw_2 traditional petanque “toss” is to take in hand the jack and a boule from each of the teams, and to toss all three into the air. When everything comes to rest, the team whose boule ends up closest to the jack wins the toss and plays first.

Here’s link to a Russian teaching video. It shows the traditional method starting at 1:03. The instructor says “You can toss a coin, of course, but the traditional method is…”

In the video, the instructor simply tosses the balls in the air in front of him, like you’d toss a coin. I’ve also seen players toss the balls over their shoulder, the way a bride throws the bridal bouquet.