Shooting and pointing are the most important parts of petanque. While there is a lot to the form and the level of consistency that you display in those acts, there is one thing that can outweigh them: how you hold the ball.
There are a few different ways to hold a petanque ball, each with its own strengths. In the end, learning to master both grips can make you a more effective player with capability to make all the throws that you need to be a top player.
The Two Techniques
There are generally two accepted ways of gripping a boule: the vise grip and the cradle grip. Understanding the difference between the two as well as when one may be more beneficial than the other is important.
The vise grip is where you hold the boule right in the palm of your hand. Then, close your fingers over the boule in a way that looks as though you are clasping the boule between your palm and fingers, similar as to having it clamped in the jaws of a vise.
Since the grasp on the boule is firmer, even if you turn your hand over, the boule should not fall out of your hand.
The other technique is known as the cradle grip. This is where you cup your fingers and use them to gently cradle the boule. The boule rests on your fingers, not in your palm as it would with the vise technique.
Think of it the way a ball would come to rest in a hammock. Since it is just resting in your hand, it is not possible to use an overhand grip as it would fall out of your hand.
Details of Technique
No matter how you decide to grip the ball, the most distinctive thing that expert players display is their ability to flick their wrists. They are able to get their wrists back and practically under their forearms with the thought being that they can control backspin more effectively in this manner.
For cradle players in particular, that grip matters because it allows those types of players to keep the ball from falling to the ground. This allows for an overhand technique to be used without having to make a major adjustment for the ball.
Grip Type and Boule Size
If you aren’t sure which grip is the right one to choose, think about the grip in terms of the size of the boule. For vise grip players, that boule size is important. If the boule is so big that you can’t effectively wrap your fingers around it, getting the necessary grip will be a lot more difficult.
For bigger boules, the cradle will likely be the way to go. That is because the size of the boule is a lot less important for cradle grip players. Some would argue that it isn’t important at all because the style of the grip negates the size.
Cradle-grip players hold the ball loosely, which means that the size does not come into play when they are gripping the ball. So, for example, cradling a medium-size boule versus cradling a large one would not have a ton of difference to it.
For players that have smaller hands, learning the cradle grip may be the best technique. This way, they can effectively point or shoot any size boule. For players who have bigger hands, the vise grip is an option but it may be better to go with the cradle grip to keep muscles from tiring after a lot of play.
Determining the Right Grip
There is no “right” or “wrong” grip. It all depends from player to player which way of gripping is most preferred. It takes time and practice to determine which one is more comfortable, though the cradle grip is the most versatile for players of all sizes.
Players should practice with both techniques to determine which one they like most. Having the vise grip in your repertoire may be something that only comes out once in a while, but it can lead to slight improvements in accuracy over time. Doing it too much, however, could result in players feeling tired out, which can lead to less accurate shots with longer games.
Becoming effective at pointing and shooting is vital to becoming a quality petanque player. There is a lot to be said about your form and accuracy, but those cannot be of the utmost quality without the proper grip.
You can use either the vise grip or the cradle but mastering both is the quickest way towards making you an effective, complete player. Learn how to properly grip the ball in various ways and you will find yourself starting to have a dominating effect on the game.