An interview with Ashley and Lee Jamieson. Ashley played in this year's GB World Championship team. His father Lee, who has also played for GB, was the team Coach.
RA: Name, age if you wish, where you live, your club. 20 years
AJ: Angmering, Nr.Littlehampton - Foxdale Petanque Club.
RA: Please describe the World Championships.
AJ: An annual championship involving the best "triplettes" teams from each of the Petanque playing countries - about 50 countries. Held in different counties - last few years its been France, Tenerife, Isle de Reunion, Germany, Belgium, Italy and Spain - played over 4 days, involving leagues and then knockout - very competitive but still "friendly" - meeting playing people from all over the world, e.g. Japan, Thailand, USA, Canada, Mauritius, Madagascar, Tunisia etc. - an international festival of boules!
RA: Lee, what was your role in the World Championship?
LJ: Organising the travel and accommodation arrangements for the 4 man team and supporters - managing the 4 man team - as it’s triples, I decide which 3 of the 4 plays in each game + making sure they are in the right place at the right time, e.g. on the correct terrain, discussing tactics etc.
RA: Ashley, what did you do have to do to qualify?
AJ: Play in six Grand Prix competitions held throughout the country and acquire the most points (e.g. 12 points for winning, 8 for runner up, 6 for losing semi-finalist etc). A long gruelling series involving much travelling.
RA: Lee, please describe the team and their roles.
LJ: A team consists of three players - (1) a pointer, whose role is to get his/her boule near to the cochonnet (jack) - (2) a shooter (tireur) who skill is to be able to knock/fire the opponents’ boules out of the "head", with the better shooters being able to replace the target boule with their own - and (3) a middle man who can shoot or point equally well depending upon the tactical situation. Ashley is normally a middle man but can if required be an out and out pointer or shooter.
RA: Ashley, what boules do you play with and why?
AJ: They are called - TON "R"s. They are a "soft" boule so they recoil less than "hard" boule would when they hit an opponent's boule - this helps them stay in the head after impact. They have a "good" feel
RA: What preparation was involved?
AJ: Playing in lots of competitions in England (match practice) + practicing shooting most evenings/lunch times. Also going to France to play in competitions so as to play better players.
RA: Do you practise pointing as well?
AJ: Yes but not so much. Practicing shooting "boule to boule" is not that dissimilar to pointing, i.e. landing on a spot, so one technique tends to complement the other. Anyway as pistes tend to differ, i.e. hard/soft/flat/undulating etc. practicing on one surface is not the answer. It's therefore important to practice pointing on a terrain before starting a competition to get to know "the roll" of the specific terrain. You can then adapt the height/trajectory of the point accordingly
RA: How did the GB team do?
AJ: Quite well, we came 17th out of 45 teams - we would have done better but unfortunately we were drawn against the world champions in the last 32.
RA: That's an excellent result – Lee, what do you think is needed to get higher? Do you think GB will ever become World Champions?
LJ: The main things we need to happen are (1) get many more youngsters (8 to 14 year olds) playing the game the "right" way, i.e. more attacking (shooting more). The pool of young players from which our future "champions" are to come is too small - at present only a hundred or so. In France there are thousands of young players so the odds are on their side! I recently played a team of 10 year olds in Paris and they would have beaten a lot of our triples in Great Britain! (2) our better younger players should go to France to play in big competitions - it's only by doing this will they learn from playing better players and get used to playing under pressure, i.e. playing in front of large, vocal but appreciative crowds for big money where one missed shot can cost you the game and hundreds/thousands of pounds! and (3) we need more indoor facilities. At present we only have one boulodrome located near Peterborough. With our climate the game virtually "shuts down" in winter so we get "out of practice" for six months of the year. Countries like France, Belgium and Holland have many such indoor boulodromes.
RA: What was the standard of play like?
AJ: On the whole very good - the teams are the best in their countries. However the top 6/8 teams are on a different higher level
RA: Who won and what was their standard of play like?
AJ: France - although the final was disappointing, during the championship, especially in the semi when they beat Spain 13 - 11, their play was awesome (especially under pressure).
RA: Can you describe the difference between a "social" game and a World Championship game? Is it a question of technique, tactics, metal approach or what? What makes the top few teams so special?
AJ: At this level Petanque is not so much a game/pastime but a sport, with the top players, at least in France, being celebrities. To play at this level these players take a professional approach. Daily practice sessions where they raise their skills/techniques to the highest levels. Regular competitions where they play the other top flight players for big prizes/titles. Besides the best players having all the skills they all seem to have a "presence" on the pistes. They have complete belief in themselves and their team-mates. They exude confidence, taking their time, never in a hurry, showing great mental strength under tremendous pressure. They give the impression that they "own" the piste and expect to win - and they normally do!
RA: Beginners often concentrate on trying to get near the coche? Is this how the Champions play?
AJ: At the World Championships it’s normally the shooting that dominates and wins games. This is because the pistes are very difficult for pointing (in Great Britain most pistes are quite easy to point on as they are relatively flat and "gravely") so the better teams opt to shoot more. The best pointeurs therefore don't point to the coche but instead try to place their boules where it will be difficult for them to be shot, i.e. near to or better still resting against their opponents’ boule(s). This will stop or at least make the opposing shooter (tireur) think twice about attempting a shot (tir).
RA: What next, after a World Championship?
AJ: Get my Chemistry Degree at Southampton University - it’s my final year - BUT starting next March also strive to qualify for next year's World Championships in Grenoble
RA: A lot of people play petanque "just for fun", perhaps a social game with
friends for an hour or two when it's sunny. How does this differ from a "World Championship"?
AJ: Playing for fun is great - that's how I started - but at that level it's just a pastime - you aren't aware of the skills/techniques used at the higher levels. If you are competitive you want to get better and play/beat better players. That's where you see and learn the skills. And it doesn't get any better than representing your country at the World Championships, playing in front of a crowd of 5000 noisy people
RA: How long have you been playing?
AJ: 8 years, since I was twelve. My father has been playing the game for about 18 years and has played for Great Britain in 2 World Championships and 6 North Sea Championships. He encouraged the family to play and this has resulted in my mother, Angela, my younger brother, Bradley and myself all representing Great Britain. Bradley is going to the Junior World Championships in France this November.
RA: What are your best results?
AJ: Represented Great Britain in this year’s World Championship, 8 North Sea Championships and 2 Junior World Championships
RA: Are you a "social" or "competition" player?
AJ: Both but mainly competition.
RA: Where do you play?
AJ: All over the country - where ever the "big" competitions are held, e.g. Grand Prix and competitions with substantial cash prizes.
RA: How do you find petanque in the local, Sussex area?
AJ: Not many venues/clubs - mainly social players - not many young players - mainly retired people. Therefore have to travel for serious competitions
RA: What would you like to see improved/developed?
AJ: More younger/keener players needed - could be introduced into schools? These will need coaching by "good" players to be more attacking, e.g shooting not just pointing. Sussex needs a competitive league so serious players can have regular match practice. Good players should be encouraged to travel to Sussex for cash competitions so the locals can see how the game can/should be played
RA: What advice would you give to "social" players that would enable them to
enjoy the game more?
AJ: Join the British Petanque Association (BPA). Join/form a BPA Club, get the club to ask for coaching. Travel to/enter serious competitions where they will play better players, see new skills and tactics.
RA: Thank you both very much indeed for such helpful answers – and good luck to your family for the future, especially Bradley for the Junior World Championships. Let us know how he gets on.
Lee Jamieson has very kindly agreed to answer any follow-up questions by email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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