✋ Tip: the physics of petanque shooting

Are you a petanque player who is interested in learning how to shoot, or in learning how to shoot better? The WIRED web site has a new video that you will find interesting. The video is about “shooting” a basketball (making free throws), but the considerations involved are basically the same as those in petanque shooting. In both cases you are trying to launch a ball toward a very small target with consistency and accuracy. The video is HERE. It is full of stimulating ideas that you can apply to your own shooting practice.

I’ve been interested in techniques for learning to throw for some time. In particular, I’ve identified consistency and the height of the throw as especially important for practicing shooting, so it was interesting for me to see the video confirm (and improve) my crude insights.

If you’re interested in more information about some of the people in the video, here are a few useful links.

Steve Nash’s HOMECOURT AI is an Apple (iPad and iPhone) app. Its web site is www.homecourt.ai. I wish there was something similar for petanque shooting!

Larry M Silverberg is a professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at North Carolina State University. You can find a podcast interview HERE. His article (“Optimal release conditions for the free throw in men’s basketball”) is available HERE, but it is very technical and I doubt that it has any practical usefulness for petanque players.

You can easily find a lot of information about Bob Fisher, the free-throw wizard, on the Web. Just google “Bob Fisher basketball“. His book is Straight Shooter: A game-changing new approach to basketball shooting. His web site is secretsofshooting.com

✋Throw like a girl

A lot of women players struggle to throw boules to longer distances, so when I saw this photo on the Facebook page of Celia Crittenden, I just had to re-post it.

Good form is the key to gettting distance on a thrown boule. And in this photo Celia, one of the top U.S. women players, shows how to do it. Aside from the fact that she is squat pointing, note the full backswing of the throwing arm, which supports a strong throw. Note also the full backswing of the non-throwing arm, which keeps her balanced as she throws.

The magic yellow line comes to televised petanque

If you watch American football on television, you’re familiar with the magic yellow line. Incredibly powerful computer technology now makes it possible to superimpose computer-generated graphics onto the moving images of the game in such a way that the graphics appear to be physically painted onto the playing field. This technology was first used to display the first-and-ten line as a yellow line on the field (hence the name “magic yellow line”) but now it has advanced to the point where many other graphical elements can also be inserted onto the screen.

This technology has finally made its way to televised petanque. I’ve been wishing for it for a long time, and now it’s here. You can see it at a few scattered places in the 2017 Eurocup Finale on Youtube.

CLICK to view larger image

CLICK to view larger image

CLICK to view larger image
The technology isn’t yet perfect— the 10m10 distance shown in the first image was wrong. (The umpires measured it at 9m73, so the jack was good.) But of course it will get better.

A new logo for the FFPJP

In case you missed it… in April 2017 the FFPJP (the French national petanque federation) adopted a new logo.

The evolution of this logo reflects the ambition of the FFPJP for the coming years. Its style, both more dynamic and refined, brings to the Federation the image of a strong brand, in full development. The logo of the French Federation of Pétanque and Jeu Provençal affirms its visual identity.


The rooster (le coq gaulois) is an unofficial national symbol of France. Its association with France dates back to the Middle Ages and is due to a pun (in Latin) on Gallus (an inhabitant of Gaul) and gallus (a rooster or cockerel). For a lot of fascinating information about le coq gaulois (including its connection to weather vanes) see the Wikipedia article on the Gallic rooster..


✋ Where should I look when I lob?

Players who are working to improve their game sometimes wonder: Where should I be looking when I throw a lob? Should I concentrate on the donnée, the spot where I want my boule to hit the ground? Or should my eyes follow the boule through its high trajectory in the air? Instructional books and videos say that your attention should be on the donnee. But if you watch Youtube videos of world-class lobbers, you can see that their eyes are following the boule through the air. Which is right? What should I be doing?
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Decathlon comes to the USA and starts selling Geologic boules

[originally published 2018-02-23; revised 2021-06-01]

Decathlon (technically, the Decathlon Group) is a world-wide chain of sporting-goods stores. It is, in fact, the largest sporting goods retailer in the world. It was founded in France in 1976. In the mid-1980s it started to expand into other European countries. In 2003 it started to expand into China, India, and Southeast Asia. Today, it has more than 1,100 stores (many of which are large superstores that stock a wide range of sporting goods) in 38 countries. There are about 40 stores in the UK, and one in Mexico. For petanque players, the interesting thing about Decathlon stores is that they stock petanque boules and other petanque equipment.
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The Ten Commandments of Petanque (postcards)

Paul Ordner had a long and successful career (starting in 1923) as a commercial artist, creating illustrations for advertisments, magazine covers, and posters (especially for sports-related magazines and events) as well as humorous and political cartoons. Around 1960 he began creating humorous drawings and cartoons for postcard publisher Éditions Photochrome à Toulouse. Eventually he designed almost 300 cards. He died in 1969 at age 68. A book of his art, Paul Ordner: 40 ans de dessin sportif, humoristique et politique, was published in 2014.

His series of postcards called “The Ten Commandments of Petanque” (Les Dix Commandements de la Pétanque) is popular with Petanque players.

01: You may tell your wife to go to hell, but thou shalt finish the game first.
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What killed the Mondial de Millau

For 34 years, starting in 1981, Le Mondial de Millau was one of the most important petanque competitions (perhaps THE most important competition) in France and in the world, attracting the world’s top pétanque players. Unlike Le Mondial la Marseillaise à Pétanque which is only a triples event, Millau held open singles, doubles, and triples competitions for both men and women, as well as a mixed triples competition. It was a 5-day pétanque festival that attracted 15,000 spectators (or 50,000, depending on who you ask) and 5,000 players. It was supported by an army of 400-500 volunteers. While it was being played in mid-August, it was impossible to find an un-booked hotel room within 80 kilometers of Millau.

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✋Working on your form: torso torque

A throwing form that allows you to throw effectively is something that you can work on. In this post we look at one aspect of effective form— torso torque. The expression refers to the way a shooter twists his torso while throwing. (See Byron Putman: Pétanque: The Greatest Game You Never Heard Of (pp. 82-85)— highly recommended.)

When you watch world-class shooters you will often see this…

  • Before the player starts his backswing, he is basically standing upright, with shoulders level and chest facing forward toward the target.
     
  • As the player begins his backswing, he leans forward slightly— this allows for a higher backswing. His throwing shoulder drops a little and moves backward, causing his torso to twist backward slightly. At the same time, his non-throwing arm starts to move backward so that at the height of the backswing both arms are raised behind his back, balancing each other.
     
  • The player begins his throw. During the throw, his throwing shoulder dips slightly, so that during the throw it moves forward gracefully in a shallow U-shaped dip. At the same time, his torso starts to untwist, so that at the end of the follow-through his throwing shoulder is in front of his body. At this point his posture is “open”— an observer standing to his non-throwing side can see the front of his chest, as in the photo of Marco Foyot at the top of this post. (For more pictures, see How to throw a boule.)

Here is a sequence of clips from the Youtube video of Ledantec shooting during the final of the Masters de Petanque 2004.

Pre-throw.

Start of backswing.

Continuing backswing. Player leans forward slightly. Non-throwing arm starts to swing back.

Approaching full backswing. Non-throwing arm is as high a throwing arm.

At the height of the backswing and just beginning the swing. The throwing shoulder is just starting to drop lower than the non-throwing shoulder.

Throwing shoulder approaches bottom of U-shaped dip. Note the angled slope of the shoulders. Torso has started to untwist. Note that the non-throwing arm has continued to move backward, balancing the throw.

Almost ready to release the boule. Torso is almost fully untwisted as throwing shoulder moves forward.

Release of the boule. Throwing shoulder is starting to rise after the lowest point of the U-shaped dip. Note that the non-throwing arm remains behind the back, counter-balancing the throwing arm which is now in front of the body.

After release. Torso is fully untwisted. Throwing shoulder is almost finished rising at the end of the U-shaped dip.

Here is the whole sequence as a slideshow.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Almost all of the great shooters (to a greater or lesser degree) demonstrate this ideal form of torso torque. And you will see it (again, to a greater or lesser degree) in pointers as well as in shooters.

Why do players move this way when they throw? Byron Putman calls it “torso torque” because he thinks it is a way for a player to use torso rotation to add power to his throw. Personally, I find that the motion of my body is more natural, and my accuracy is greater, when I twist my torso and bring my throwing arm forward while throwing. I suspect that shoulder anatomy is coming into play here, but I don’t know enough anatomy to be able to say exactly what is happening.

Note that when referring to a player (of unspecified gender), I use “he” and “his” as abbreviations for “he or she” and “his or her”.


Unboxing Obut order from PetanqueAmerica

I ordered some jacks, an umpire’s folding ruler, and a set of the new Obut stainless steel leisure boules from Petanque America.

jacks
The first item in the order was several orange Obut jacks. I’d seen the orange jacks on Youtube videos and the color seemed to be easy to see. I’d describe the color as matte (not glossy) flourescent orange.

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Measuring your skill level

For a long time I have wondered if it might be possible to develop a simple method for measuring (assigning a numeric value to) a player’s skill level. If so, then a player looking for a partner for a competition could use the value to help find a partner with a similar skill level. Before a competition it could be used to seed teams. A player could measure his/her improvement as he/she practices.

My idea is that the the measurement should consist of two numbers representing the player’s success percentages for pointing and shooting respectively— like this: 80/20, meaning an 80% success rate at pointing and a 20% success rate at shooting.

(Or perhaps a better way would be the player's SHOOT THE 30 score.)
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Proper use of the boule towel

Most players are familar with the requirement in Article 16(c) always to carry a boule towel in order to be able to remove (enlever) any mud or foreign substance clinging to a boule before throwing it. The rules, however, do not contain precise specifications for boule towels, so it is hardly surprising that the most frequently-asked questions about the rules of petanque are questions about the boule towel— What kind of fabric should it be made of? How big should it be? How should it be held and used?

Perhaps the most surprising thing about boule towels is that the usual English translation of the French word (chiffon) is “boule towel“. In fact, toweling material, thick and fuzzy, is completely unsuitable for use as a boule towel. It quickly picks up stray bits of leaves, twigs, and thorns and is almost impossible to clean. Instead, we recommend a fabric with a much smoother, harder texture— a patch cut from the leg of a worn-out pair of jeans does the job nicely.

There is no regulation size for a boule towel. A towel that is too small to do the job is obviously undesirable; a towel that is too large will be clumsy to use and carry. We have found that a rectangle of fabric approximately 29cm x 43cm (11.5″ x 17”) works well. A cloth table mat makes an excellent boule towel.
Some so-called “experts” advise a player with a larger (or smaller) hand to use a larger (or smaller) towel. That’s rubbish, of course, since the relevant factor here is not the size of the hand but the size of the boule. A player who uses a larger (or smaller) size of boule should use a larger (or smaller) towel.

Finally, there is the question of how to carry and use the boule towel. Here, there are two basic requirements: one legal, the other practical. The boule towel must NOT be carried in such a way that it hides any boules that the player might also be carrying in the same hand. And, as a practical matter, the towel must be carried in a way that it can be conveniently used when needed, while not interfering with a player’s grip on any boule(s) that he may want to carry in the same hand.

The traditional provençal method of using the boule towel is to fold the long edge over the short edge, and then pinch the end of the towel into a small bunch,


The pinched end of the towel is then threaded through the fingers in the manner shown in the photograph (below).

When the hand is closed and holding a boule, the fingers naturally and effortlessly grip the towel firmly, and the tail of the towel falls cleanly away from the hand. When the towel is needed, the long loose tail can easily be folded up and over a boule in the hand in order to wipe the boule thoroughly. While doing this, it is easy to clean and dry the fingers and palm of the throwing hand by rubbing them vigorously with the cloth-covered boule.

Once you have found a boule towel that perfectly fits your hand and your playing style, you should treat it like what it is— a piece of personal hygiene equipment. Never lend your boule towel to another player; you don’t want to catch their cooties.


NOTE I am not a certified umpire. The opinions expressed in this post are solely my own and do not represent official rulings or rules interpretations of any organized petanque federation, national or otherwise. Posted April 1, 2017.


Are your boules toxic?

Some boules are made of stainless steel (inox). Some boules are made of carbon steel (acier au carbone). And some boules (especially inexpensive leisure boules) are made of carbon steel coated (revêtu) in chrome (chromé). The chrome makes the surface of the boules tougher and more resistant to rust (rouille). The problem is that the process of manufacturing chrome-plated boules uses Chromium 6, and Chromium 6 is highly toxic.

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My shooting pit (4)

This design (like my second design) is two pits, facing each other. Like my first design, the backstops are V-shaped, which makes the boules easy to gather. The backstop is constructed out of lightweight hollow-core plastic boards designed for fence construction. (I got them cheap, at a recycled building-materials yard.) Click on any of the photos to see a larger view.

petanque_shooting_pit_design4_photo1

petanque_shooting_pit_design4_photo2

petanque_shooting_pit_design4_photo3

petanque_shooting_pit_design4_photo4

The backstop is constructed out of lightweight hollow-core plastic boards designed for fence construction.
petanque_shooting_pit_design4_photo5


How to send text messages from your laptop or PC

If you’re trying to co-ordinate a group of petanque players, it can sometimes be handy to be able to send them text messages via email from your laptop or PC. Here’s how to do it.

The first thing you need to know is that, for the purposes of emailing a text message, each cell phone has an ordinary email address. The format of that address is

phoneNumber@carrierSMSgateway

The phoneNumber should be 10 digits. It should include the area code. It should include only numbers – no dashes or parentheses. So for a phone number of (333) 444-5555 the phoneNumber in the email address is 3334445555.

The carrierSMSgateway is the SMS (“Short Message Service”) gateway provided by the telephone carrier. If you know a telephone number, there are several free web sites that will let you look up the carrier of that number, and the carrier’s SMS gateway. One web site that I found easy to use was freecarrierlookup.com



freecarrierlookupdotcom

In the image, you can see that the carrier for this particular number is Verizon Wireless, and Verizon’s SMS gateway is vtext.com. Very conveniently, freecarrierlookup.com provides the full SMS gateway address (5206644133@vtext.com) for the number that was looked up, so I can just copy-and-paste it into my email program.

When the recipient receives your text message, he will see your email address (the “Reply-to” email address that you provided when you sent your email message) in the place where he would normally see the caller’s telephone number. If the recipient replies to your text message, his reply will be sent to that email address.

But, a WARNING—

Email providers often regard email that is sent from a telephone number as coming from an unknown or suspect source. Some will flag such email as spam, so that the reply ends up in your email’s JUNK MAIL folder. Some will greylist the reply and delay it (this message was delayed for an hour).

X-Greylist delayed 3601 seconds by postgrey-1.34 at mail8.webfaction.com

Some email providers will silently and completely filter out the reply— you receive no reply and no indication whatsoever that the recipient replied to your message. So, at least until you’ve experimented and determined otherwise, don’t assume that replies to your text message will get through to you.

When the recipient receives your text message, he will receive a text message consisting of the SUBJECT line of your email message (in parentheses) followed by the text of the message. You can use a very short subject line. When I send a text message with a question, I like to make the subject line just a question mark, so the recipient gets a text message that starts with “(?)”.

Keep your messages (including the SUBJECT line) short. Try to keep the whole thing to less than 160 characters. If your message is longer than 160 characters, your message will be broken down into chunks of 153 characters, and each chunk will be sent as a separate text message. Some carriers are smart enough to re-assemble the short chunks into one long text message, but most are not.

If you’d like to review your message before sending it to others, send it to your own phone. Then, if it looks good, you can send it to the real recipients.

Note that this information only applies to telephone numbers with US and Canada area codes. That is: numbers with country code = 1. You can send text messages to foreign countries, too. When dialing, you first specify your country’s “exit code” to get onto the international exchange, then you specify the recipient’s country code and his telephone number. For international dialing, one source that I found to be useful was www.howtocallabroad.com. It will tell you, for instance, that the exit code for the USA is 011.