A triples team of Max Hinchman, Linda McPherson & Jim Tosio discuss strategy for the team's next pointing or shooting throw.
A triples team of Max Hinchman, Linda McPherson & Jim Tosio discuss strategy for the team's next pointing or shooting throw.

In pétanque, every boule closer to the target cochonnet (co-sho-nay) than the opposing team’s nearest boule scores a point. Each round begins with throwing out the cochonnet 6-10 meters immediately followed by the first player throwing to get close to the cochonnet. The opposing team then throws, with its player either trying to get even closer or trying to hit away the opponent’s boule. Thus, the two fundamental skill throws are “pointing” and “shooting.”

Doubles or triples allow for specialization of players’ roles as pointers or shooters, although in purely recreational play, teams might decide spontaneously, even randomly, who will throw. Each player might individually choose to point or shoot based on personal skills and the game situation. In competitive play, however, the pointer and shooter roles are formalized.

Conventionally, the shooter is the team captain and, in consultation with team members, makes decisions about pointing, shooting and team strategy. As one simple example, before the pointer throws the first boule, a skilled shooter might place the cochonnet at the beginning of each round at a personally preferred distance if a shot is later needed. Or the shooter might direct a skilled pointer to go ahead and place the cochonnet wherever the pointer feels most advantaged for the first throw.

As the game continues, the shooter will come in whenever shooting away an opponent’s well-placed boule is needed. Otherwise, the other team player(s) might exhaust all boules with the shooter playing last. Interestingly, the shooter then also needs to be a capable pointer! Similarly, if the opposing team’s pointer gets each boule close to the cochonnet, all the shooter’s boules might be exhausted at the outset – and the pointer also needs to be a capable shooter.

In its fundamentals, pétanque is simple, social, and fun. Together with every player’s aspiration continuously to improve personal skills in pointing and shooting, the complexity and nuance of team strategy make playing pétanque engaging and challenging, both individually and as a team. It’s been called “the perfect individual team sport.”

The Club encourages all Oakmonters who may be interested in playing or learning to play pétanque (pay-tonk’) to come to the courts (between Berger and the OVA offices beside the Shuffleboard courts) at 9:45 a.m. on the Club play days of Wednesday and Saturday. The Club has boules to lend, the game is easy to learn, and you’ll be playing right away. Anyone interested, regardless of experience, is welcome to join in. No dues are required – just sign up to be on the Club roster. Club play days are casual friendly games with teams randomly assigned. The courts are also reserved 10 a.m. – noon for Club player-arranged pickup games on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday.


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