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Pétanque etiquette

If you are new to pétanque or even if you have been playing for years, you may not be aware of some pétanque etiquette. To quote Emily Post, "Whenever two people come together and their behavior affects one another, you have etiquette." Etiquette is learned, and if we are not taught what they are, we will likely make mistakes and irritate our opponents. Some of these norms are actual rules in pétanque, while others are basic courtesies. We are sharing some pétanque etiquette here as we still see these mistakes made by many players. We should make a disclaimer that we are not official umpires writing this blog; we're just sharing rules based on what we've read and learned from tournaments. For more in-depth discussions about pétanque rules, we recommend the Petanque rules - ask the umpire Facebook page managed by Mike Pegg. You will learn a lot of interesting facts in this forum.

Christophe with Patrick Grignon, the Top pétanque umpire

  1. The circle is a sacred place. When a player is in the circle, please do not talk or gesture to them, your teammates, or anyone else for that matter. You and your team should make decisions about your strategy before you get in the circle. Once you're in the circle, your job is to execute the plan; therefore, even your teammate(s) shouldn't be talking to you, unless there's a clear error in your strategy and you need to stop the play. If you are the opponent, be respectful and not talk as the sound of your voice carries further than you may think. Talking can be very distracting when someone is trying to point or shoot. Along that line, don't move or fidget (with your boules or anything else) when someone is in the circle. The same goes for spectators, but cheering is encouraged after players have executed great points or shots.

  2. If you and your teammates are out of boules during a game, and the other team still has boules to play, you should not walk into the play area to see what's going on while the other team is playing, such as checking to see who has the point or how many points there are on the ground. You should wait patiently on the side until your opponent is done playing all their boules, at which time your captain can approach the terrain and discuss points with the other team's captain. If your opponent wants to measure a boule after a play, the captain of your team can oversee the measuring to make sure boules are not moved, etc.

  3. Where to stand when it's not your turn? You should stand on the side away from your opponent as to not distract them. This means either way behind the circle or behind and on the side of the jack, not somewhere between the circle and the jack. Standing on the side but in the middle of the terrain (between the circle and the jack) can be distracting to your opponent. If you and your team are playing an end, then you can stand wherever you want - this is your time. When it's your opponent's turn, it's their time so you should stand back.

  4. Don't stare at the person when they're in the circle. You can look at the ground where the boule may land, the jack, or anywhere else that you feel like looking at, just not at the player who is about to point or shoot. Along that line, don't stand in their direct line of vision at the other end. Stand to the side as mentioned in #3 above. In short, try not to stand close to the other team when it is not your turn.

  5. If you just played your boule and believe that you have the point, but your opponent doesn't agree or is not sure, it is up to you to measure, not your opponent. Your opponent has the right to measure after you to double check if they want. It's also proper etiquette to bring a measuring tape to every tournament. Unless you are at an important tournament where there's an umpire who measures for you, you need to come prepared with your own tape.

  6. When both teams are done playing their boules, do not touch or remove any boule until both captains agree on points. This means that each responsible party needs to eye the boules and affirmatively agree on the number of points or measure as needed before agreement. If you're not the captain, don't mettle - let your captain decide. We have seen heated arguments and upsets when multiple people made decisions or when players picked up boules before the other team had a chance to measure. Furthermore, once both captains agree, other players should not question the decision afterward. This is why we have captains.

Some of us have been scolded or even yelled at for making faux pas while playing. By the way, yelling at someone is very poor etiquette. If someone doesn't know the rules, model good sportsmanship by gently telling them what they're doing wrong and why. Try to remember when you first started playing, you didn't know all the rules either. Keep playing, learning, and being kind. :-)

Silas Holm inside the circle

1 Comment

Oct 31, 2022

Fantastic article on a very important topic in petanque play. Thank you for writing this.

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