✋ Learning to shoot – form, accuracy, consistency

Recently a friend asked me for suggestions about how to learn to shoot. Here are some thoughts on that subject. I’m not an expert, and I can speak only from my own experience.

Personally, I find it helpful to practice shooting with three different goals in mind. I devote one practice session to one of the goals, another session to another of the goals, and so on. I call the goals form, accuracy, and consistency.

1. Form
On the grounds that no one will ever be able to throw well if his/her form is bad, my first goal is to get my form right. This means

  • (a) learning what good form looks like, and then
  • (b) learning the moves. That is, learning how to throw with that form.

(a) is a process of learning what experts do with their bodies when they shoot. A good way to do this is to watch Youtube videos of world-class shooters.

| compilation de tirs | los mejores tiros | championnate du monde |

As you watch, ignore the game and pay attention to the shooters’ form as they throw. What are they doing with their feet? Their knees, their shoulders? Their backswing, their follow-through, their non-throwing arm? No two players have exactly the same form, but there are a number of things that most world-class shooters do. Watch for those things, and create a mental image of your ideal throwing form. Better yet, if you find certain players whose form looks good to you, watch them a lot. They will give you a concrete picture of what you want to imitate.

A DailyMotion video of a recent match shows an expert shooter in full backswing. Note the position of his shoulders, torso, throwing hand, and non-throwing hand. A good model to imitate.

(b) is the process of learning how to imitate that form… learning how to do with your body what you see the experts doing with their bodies. To do this, you need feedback on your efforts. Ideally you’d have a coach to watch you and give you useful feedback. Unfortunately, petanque coaches are as rare as hen’s teeth. Lacking a coach, try to enlist a friend to watch you and provide feedback. If you can, get your friend to use his/her cell phone or tablet to take a 2-minute video of you while you’re practicing. Then you and your friend can watch the video while discussing the strengths and weaknesses of your form.

When you are practicing your form, don’t worry about how close you get to the target. Hit or miss, it makes no difference. Pay attention to how you’re moving your body. That’s what it means to practice your form.

2. Accuracy
Once your form is workable, your second goal is accuracy… hitting the target. This is where you just throw, trusting in your form practice to make your form good even when you’re not thinking about it, and paying attention only to where your thrown boule lands and how close it comes to the target boule. For this, the only plan is throw, throw, throw, and watch, watch, watch.

Sometimes it is helpful to stand at a fixed distance and just throw and throw until you get the distance down. But don’t do that all of the time. Periodically, practice throwing in rotation. Throw a few boules from one distance, and then move to a new position and throw from a different distance. During real play you will need to shoot from a variety of distances, and practicing this way will help prepare you for that.

This was how I began practicing how to shoot. Sometimes I would practice for form, and sometimes I would practice for accuracy.

As I practiced for accuracy, I noticed something. Even though my form seemed to be OK, and even though I sometimes hit the target boule, I realized that my throws were wildly inconsistent. Some were low, some were high. Some were short, some were long. Clearly I wasn’t being consistent about when I was releasing the boule (early release=low throw, late release=high throw) and I wasn’t being consistent about the force (the speed) with which I was throwing (slow swing=short throw, fast swing=long throw).

Realizing this suggested to me that I should have a third goal, something that was sort of like form, and sort of like accuracy, but not exactly the same as either of them. Consistency.

3. Consistency
I began to change the way that I thought about consistency. Instead of thinking of it as consistency in hitting the target (accuracy), I began to think of it as a matter of control— of consistency in the speed of my throw, and consistency in when I opened my hand and released the boule.

To help me practice consistency, I rigged up two ribbons across my shooting pit, just above head height. And then I practiced throwing between those two ribbons, trying to throw to a consistent height. My theory is that if I can throw to a consistent height, then I’m gaining control over the point in my swing where I’m releasing the boule. And if I can throw to a consistent distance at the same time, then I’m gaining control over the strength (speed) of my throw.
Practicing with the ribbons helps keep me aware of the height to which I am actually throwing. And it helps me to get a better idea of what is a good/desirable height for my throw. As I adjust my ideas about the best height for the throw, I adjust the height of the ribbons.


The FFPJP (and their training arm, CIEP) sells a kit for use in schools, for teaching petanque to kids. It contains equipment designed to teach the kids consistency by having them throw their boules through vertical hoops. Same basic idea. Here is a picture of Ukrainian kids using the kit.


Here is a picture of a young person with Carolina Petanque trying out the same kit.



5 thoughts on “✋ Learning to shoot – form, accuracy, consistency

  1. Best articles about petanque i have read … I have this question about shooting (TIR). I am right handed. When I start the TIR, standing in the circle, on what leg should I put the weight of my body?

    • Stand up straight, with your torso vertical. Start with your right foot slightly in front of your left foot, with your right foot pointed directly at the target.

      Bend your right knee slightly. This will allow your right shoulder easily to move slightly forward and to the right and drop – this will insure that your throwing arm is slightly away from your hip, so there is no chance of hitting your hip during the swing. If you throw with a big backswing, this posture will also allow you easily to bend even farther forward, making it easier to raise the boule in your right hand high behind you.

      Keep your left leg straight, with your weight on your left leg/foot.

      During your swing, as your right arm comes forward, your weight will naturally shift forward and onto your right leg/foot. Your right knee will naturally bend a bit more as your weight shifts onto it, like a spring. The bent right leg acts as a spring, smoothing out the motion of your swing. At the end of your swing, your weight will be on your right leg and the “spring” will be flexed.

      If you watch Youtube videos of Philippe Suchaud (and many other world-class shooters), this is basically what you will see, although it may be hard to see: Philippe is so skillful that he has reduced his form to the minimum necessary to get the job done. See also the photos at https://petanque.wordpress.com/technique/how-to-throw-a-boule/, especially the photos of Malek Hfraiedh and Marco Foyot.

      • Thank you for your clear and detailed answer and for this excellent link.
        Philippe Suchaud IS THE BEST. As you say “Philippe is so skillful that he has reduced his form to the minimum necessary to get the job done”. The young Molinas Tyson is excellent too.
        Quintais et Fazzino are excellent but hard to imitate…

  2. Recently, I read Artem Zurev’s blog (again) on foot positioning and interestingly, he recommended (if possible) for players to use what he termed “classic stance” of two feet side by side with a fist size gap in between, with knees slightly bend to “ground” the centre of gravity. I tried it, yes, it is very stable but need to readjust the throwing arm “alignment” from my usual pivot foot forward stance. I noted that, among today’s players, only Christian Fazzino and Marco Foyot still stand this way, the old boys. I wonder if this stance will ever make a comeback. You can really experience the “feel the force” approach with this stance instead of technique driven !! Now, I understand why in some articles, they said Fazzino used the “feel” method. By the way, if you can master this stance and method, it is a joy to shoot !!

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