This post explores what players should be doing to improve and the levels of dedication and commitment required to play any sport at international level. If we are going to ask Petanque England for more, then we should understand what they should be looking for in return.
October – Beginning of March – Do what you can to keep ticking over. As we know this is the really difficult time for ambitious players but there are competitions abroad and events in the UK but without the indoor facilities it is a tough ask.
Mid March – End of September – Should be playing pretty much every week with at least 4 trips abroad preferably 6.
While making the effort to get down to your local club to practice is commendable if it involves chucking up one boule and shooting at it twice or playing games against friends with no thought about what you are doing then it’s not really progressing your game. What we need is purposeful practice so let’s try and define what that might look like.
In no particular order of importance:-
How long and how often should we be practicing – At least 3 or 4 times a week with 8/10 hours minimum. (Some research suggests that 6/8 hours a day is required to compete internationally but I don’t think that is practical for what is effectively an amateur sport)
Warm Up – Simple stretching and swinging of arms should be the starting point of any session.
Circles – Always practice with a circle, preferably a plastic one but not essential.
In match play you throw less boule over a longer time being disciplined about using a circle will slow you down and get you thinking about quality not quantity.
Questions to ask yourselves:-
Do you have a pre-shot routine for both pointing and shooting?
Have you timed yourself in the circle for consistency of execution of shot once in the circle?
Have you videoed yourself for analysis? Have you videoed yourself at different times of the year to reflect temperature and clothing differences to see if that impacts on technique?
We all know to pick a landing spot and focus on this when pointing and not to look at the coche but beyond that?
How well do you know your own game?
Do you know what variance in trajectory you need depending on where that landing spot is in relation to the coche and the overall length of the throw?
Start with an 8m coche and assume the landing spot is at 4m you have a 50/50 trajectory point of 4M through the air and 4M along the ground. Then move the landing spot nearer the coche to 5/6 and finally 7m to learn the different trajectories you need to throw for your style dependent on the amount of spin you apply to the boule. Be able to do this at all lengths particularly 10M.
Once you have mastered weight control and accuracy of hitting landing spot what next?
Do you practice pointing with straight spin? How many times do you see a player throw a straight point and the boule kicks off line and they look at the ground for the offending stone but don’t realise they imparted unintended side spin on the boule at release that caused the deviation.
Do you practice side spin? Do you practice side spin with a high lob?
Do you practice promotion points knocking in front boule but also bringing your point with it to score 2?
Do you practice resting on holding boule? Do you practice the aggressive lob point aimed at pushing boule or moving the coche? Do you practice these shots with side spin from both sides?
Do you practice all of these options within a controlled and repeatable shot routine for consistency of technique?
We are all trying to replicate our technique as accurately as possible and one that allows us to shoot effectively at distances as varied as 5/12M for practical purposes.
Practice at all lengths, I prefer to start short and then work up but whatever works for you. In general terms for English players most focus should be on improvement at 8/10m.
The precision shooting format is an excellent way to practice as it forces you to focus on staying and practice over the top shots to maintain loop in your trajectory. It can also instil some pressure into practice which is always the hardest thing to replicate.
Practice coche shooting. Practice hitting sides of boule, practice trying to screw back or roll forward on shots.
Concentrate on relaxation and focus. If you have friends introduce deliberate distractions like movement or arm waving to force deep focus on the target boule.
Do you practice throwing the coche? One of the biggest weaknesses I see is the lack of thought that goes into throwing the coche, it may be due to the type of terrains we generally play on but if there is variety in the piste that allows you to force the opposition pointer out of his comfort zone in terms of landing spot you need to have the accuracy to throw the coche where you want it and to get the length right.
Online Videos – Do you watch the best players in the world to learn from them whether its technique or tactical decision making or team dynamics, body language, positioning on the terrain much can be learnt from watching the best.
Food/blood sugar – While not something you can practice being aware of how your food intake can affect your game is very important and you can experiment with this in terms of when you eat and what you eat and at what time in relation to your practice. Is there and optimal amount to eat at a certain time before you practice?
Self analysis - Is your practice focused on your perceived weaknesses or do you practice what you enjoy? Do you reflect on your best games/days and try to recall your mental focus so you can try and replicate them in the future? Do you record baseline percentages at different skill sets at the start of the season and then repeat at the end to measure progress?
I am sure there is plenty I have forgotten but the point of this post is to point out the huge level of commitment required to try and have a break through at international level and to achieve the levels of consistency required to compete.
Is it required to be successful in England, no, but hopefully that will change. Is it practical for a lot of players with family and work commitments, probably not but the simple message is tough there are no short cuts and don’t shoot the messenger!
No player can afford to be one dimensional in their thinking or their approach to practice, you may be the pointer or shooter in your team but you have to be ready to play any position and be able to play any shot required.
Practice is not about throwing more good boule it’s about throwing less bad boule and having more options at your disposal in any given situation. Consistency Consistency Consistency.