by Philippe Geraud
This blog introduces an article by Seattle Pétanque Club president Philippe Geraud. Philippe, a graduate of McGill University in Montreal, Canada, has continued his post-graduate work in China Regional Studies at the University of Washington, and in TESL at SPU. He joined the Seattle Pétanque Club in 2005 and is now the President. Currently Philippe focuses his study on training, sports psychology, and team dynamics. He leads clinics and workshops throughout the Northwest sports community. Click here to link to the rest of the article on the FPUSA website in the Education section…Dan
Ask ten pétanque players what their practice routine is and you’re bound to get ten different answers ranging from “I usually practice one or two hours per day” to “I don’t think practice is necessary” or “I usually get all the practice I need when I play.” This is not surprising, given that our approaches to training and practice are often very individual and largely influenced by whether or not we believe that practice is useful, our age, the amount of available time at our disposal for practice, our level of energy, discipline, and whether or not we aspire to higher levels of competition.
New players with adequate hand-and-eye coordination can easily learn the mechanics of pétanque. The basic rules governing how the game is played are fairly easy to remember. Most new players find it relatively manageable to pick-up a boule and throw it without too much difficulty. In fact, anyone who has been exposed to and played games that involve body mechanics similar to those used in playing pétanque, be it golf, bowling, or bocce, may already have certain “natural” advantages since their neural pathways are already wired for gauging distance, follow-through, and “reading the terrain.” These new players may also be somewhat familiar with focusing techniques they may have picked-up playing other sports, techniques that can be applied when playing pétanque.
Haphazard play, luck, and lack of skill can only get one so far, however. Many players who begin playing with-out having first acquired a firm foundation, through proper instruction and practice, in the proper way to hold a boule, read the terrain and point in various ways in order to adapt to the terrain may find themselves hampered by the unpredictability of their throws.
Soon enough, lack of form, accuracy and predictability quickly takes its toll and leads to frustration on the playing field. This is often due to poor habits which have been acquired early on and which were never corrected; habits which have now become ingrained. Unfortunately, bad habits are very difficult to break once they have been acquired and have become part of one’s individual style.
The debate over the importance of skill building, training and practice goes clear back to the 19th century when Sir Francis Galton wrote his, at the time, seminal book Hereditary Genius, positing that “superior” athletes, or most top performers for that matter, “are genetically predisposed to achieve a certain level of performance, regardless of the intensity and manner in which these athletes train to attain a certain level of excellence.” He stated that champions who demonstrate “maximal performance” do so through inherited physical and mental attributes, though he also acknowledged the importance of training and practice in order to reach high levels of performance. Though Galton’s approach, which focuses primarily on genetic predisposition, still finds acceptance in many circles even today, his theories have been disputed by researchers in the academic fields of kinesiology, exer-cise science, and sport psychology. Today, the research points to an effective training/practice regimen, one that focuses on the development of physical, technical, tactical, and mental skills, not the genetic profile of the athlete, as the primary determinant of superior performance.
To read more go to the Education section of the FPUSA website.