Improve Your Skills

Do I Have To Practice

It may seem a bit obvious but the more you practice …..OK this is the bit where we come to what we promised you didn’t have to do! But here’s the thing, practice doesn’t have to be lonely hours on a windblown piste unless you want to become a top player in which case practicing alone and regularly is what you have to do.

Practicing Without Practicing

Remember that improving your standard of play comes as much from improving your mental attitude as from improving physical skills. Because of this, the best practice may well be playing more frequently and at a higher standard than you are used to. This is where playing in competitions can contribute significantly to playing better. You’d hardly call that practicing would you?

Good players tend to play lots of competitions so you will be up against better players than you’ll find on an average Club day. For those who say “I don’t want to do competitions” bear in mind they are not that much different from playing at our Club. They are usually just as friendly, people are out to have a good time as well as to do well.

You could make a start by playing in a competition being held at Camberwell. You’ll then be familiar with the pistes, many of the players and all the facilities. It will be an easy first step. It would be a fair to say that if you haven’t played in a competition you have missed a lot of what makes petanque such an enjoyable game.


A website is not the best place to teach skills! Good teaching of skills requires face to face contact and hands on tuition. This is best obtained through well structured, professional training and quality mentoring. The Club is planning to hold more regular, structured training sessions to help achieve this.


This might be a potentially controversial paragraph, elephant in the room stuff. At Club games level there are shooters and non-shooters. Shooters are generally more experienced players and can appear to lesser mortals to be revered, to be top of the pile in petanque. When they think a shoot is needed they just go and do it. Non-shooters end up feeling second class citizens, not that they’d ever admit it! It may partly be their fault, either way that's to be avoided as it doesn't help team spirit.

If a shooter had a 100% success rate there would be lots of awe and but no shock. Shock only comes when after three goes the opponent’s boule is still in the same place. In appreciating shooting this is possibly the most important factor to bear in mind. Shooting is effective if it works, otherwise it is a wasted boule.

The problem is complex. Clearly there are times when to shoot is the right shot to play even though non-shooters may not fully appreciate why. On the other hand there are probably more borderline cases where the risk of the shooter missing has to be weighed up against the chance of another shot such as a hard point being a better balance of risk and outcome.

From observation some of the problem is a lack of discussion within the team as to what's best to do. This is possibly the only time that playing in a team with different levels of expertise can be awkward. A quick word or two is all it takes for a team to agree “yes it’s worth a shoot” rather than the shooter just assuming that’s what has to be done.

The positives are that shooters can save the day. Shooters add to a team’s competence and if your team doesn’t have one you are already at a disadvantage. So to those who can’t shoot, love your shooter, you need him/her! Think of the start of any game what are the first words between team mates - 'who's the shooter?'

Also respect your shooter. It is a lonely job, they know they are not infallible, they know you are depending on them and they know there’s a high expectation level. They also know their usual success rate may only be 50% and it’s now the end of a long day and they are tiring. So embrace them, celebrate the successes, support their non-successes. Don’t think of it as a fail, the team knew there was only say a 50% chance of pulling it off when they agreed a shoot was appropriate.

The Problem With Shooters!

Yes, let’s be provocative! The problem with shooters is they really like to shoot! So would you if you could shoot. It’s exciting, decisive and makes lots of lovely noise. If you are a non-shooter the solution is simple - You MUST Learn To Shoot Too!

New problem

The problem then changes. Your team has one experienced shooter and then there is you, who is just getting the hang of it. Who should play the shot? Pretty obvious. It’s an interesting observation that the very best shooters often invite or encourage the ‘trainees’ to have a go which is wonderfully generous. Top shooters shoot all day long and it’s little loss to them to let you have a go. The Club needs to focus on this aspect of training as stepping up to become a shooter is probably the most difficult thing to learn about playing petanque. But once you become a shooter, you’re king of the castle too!

When To Shoot And When Not To

Like a lot else in petanque, there’s no absolute right and wrong. If you succeed, you are the hero of the moment. If you miss the question of whether you were right to shoot comes into sharper focus. The stakes are then upped even more with the pressing question whether to shoot again.

In all this team decision making the key question should be “which shot by whom has the most chance of achieving the team’s strategy”. If the shooter is playing well, let him have another go. If he is ‘off’ maybe good to conserve his boule and let another team member play.

Here’s the start of a work in progress list of when to shoot and when not to. It’s been compiled by a number of people ‘of experience’

When To Shoot

Your shooter is on fire

You have little chance of outpointing your opponents

You need to scatter a group of boules preventing you getting to the point

By shooting one of the opposition’s boule it will give you a number of points

To shoot the cosh out and gain the number of points equal to your team’s boules in hand

When Not To Shoot

If it’s unnecessary or the chance of success won’t justify the risk of using up that boule

The shooter is hesitant, is having an off day, doesn’t think he can do it or has twice missed

The opponent’s boule is behind the cosh and it may be better tactics to roll on to it