Ray Ager talks about his latest project to translate a leading French book on pétanque which looks at the technical, tactical and mental aspects of the sport.
I’ve always been convinced by the importance of training and practice in pétanque, something which is the norm in most sports but is often neglected in pétanque clubs. When I was in the UK, I was a (then) Grade 3 Coach in Brighton, where I used to help organize a successful Beginners to Winners coaching course for new players, plus weekly coaching and practice sessions for players wishing to develop their game.
I’ve been in La Ciotat, ‘Birthplace of Pétanque’, since 2012 now but have been disappointed by the lack of training in the local clubs. I was delighted to discover Gilles Souef’s website, www.petanque-apprentissage.com, on training and coaching. Gilles is equally passionate about training and practice and his site contains a wealth of information, including a lot of videos on technique.
Naturally I bought his first book and when he mentioned a new, expanded version, I suggested an English version. I’d often been in contact with Gilles via email and his site, asking lots of questions and suggesting a few things for him to cover. Gilles always responded to my requests and we got to know one another via the internet. I think I impressed Gilles, as an English man, who was equally passionate about the game. I was delighted when he took up my offer to translate the book.
Gilles has a very individual, ‘humorous’ style of writing, both on his website and in his book. Although the book is ‘serious’ the style is often ‘humorous’ and I wasn’t sure a) how this would translate and b) whether the style of humour would be appreciated by English readers. I had a few sleepless nights wondering whether to try and convey the original style or to make an ‘adaptation’ of the book for an English audience.
I finally decided to stay faithful to the original. I hope the style will be appreciated.
As to the content, it’s a comprehensive look at technique, tactics and the mental side of the game. I think the book will contain something for players at all levels, from beginners to the more experienced player, although the biggest benefit will probably be more for the ‘intermediate’ players who wish to develop their game.
Obviously Gilles wrote the original for French players. I think it’s true to say that, at least in France, pétanque hasn’t advanced in the way most other sports have, in terms of the approach to training. There are many ‘myths’ and ‘folklore’ surrounding the game. Many are of the view that you have to have a gift or be born to be a shooter. The implication is that training is irrelevant and you won’t improve. Gilles takes the view that with intelligent training (explained in the book) nearly everybody is capable of attaining a good standard, citing himself as a player without much obvious or ‘natural’ talent but who’s worked hard to develop his game, leading to his winning Departmental titles.
A departmental title would be equivalent to a Regional title in the UK but I think it’s important to point out that the general standard in the France is higher than the UK. In my opinion and as a rule of thumb, a UK Regional standard is equivalent to a French Club standard and a UK National standard is equivalent to a French Regional standard. Remember, that the French Champions usually say, it’s easier to win a World Championship than a French National title — they are being serious, not joking or boasting, just reflecting the different standards of play.
Personally, I found the advice on the shooting stance particularly helpful and I’ve modified my stance as a result of reading the book. I also found the contribution by Kaisen, author of L’Esprit de la Pétanque, very relevant and thought provoking.
The ‘mental’ side of the game, including team play, is also something that’s often neglected but Gilles devotes a lot of thought to this in the book.
Gilles himself is a shooter but also states that pointing is a) more difficult and b) more important in most games. Although pointing is not neglected, Gilles is the first to admit that he’s guilty of focusing more on shooting that pointing and that we probably all need to practice pointing as much as, if not more than, shooting.
As the translator, I hope you too will find the book useful. I know Gilles appreciates any feedback on his website. I too would appreciate any feedback on the English version.