Gone Outdoors

French Ball Games

by Gianna Maria

The French people enjoy a variety of ball games. Although football (also known as soccer in the United States) is the most popular sport, several regions in the country enjoy ball games that are unique to France or were developed in that country.

Petanque or Boules

Petanque (which is also called Boules in some regions) is one of France's most popular ball games. It is played by two to six people divided into teams of one, two or three. Play the game on a medium-hard surface with hollow metal balls about the size of an orange. If two people or four people are playing, each player has three metal balls. If six people are playing, each player has two metal balls. A small playing circle is drawn. All players must throw their balls from within this circle without moving their feet. The game starts when one player throws a small target ball, (the cochonnet), on the playing area. He then takes the first turn, aiming to throw his ball as close as possible to the cochonnet. His opponent then tries to throw his ball closer to the cochonnet. If he does not achieve this in his first throw, he keeps trying until all of his balls are on the playing area. The first player than returns to the circle and throws the rest of his balls, striving to get closest to the cochonnet. Players can also use their balls to strike the cochonnet and move it closer or farther away from the balls already on the playing field. The first round is over when all balls are on the playing field. Points are awarded to the individual or team that has the closest ball to the cochonnet. The winner receives one point for each ball that is closer to the cochonnet than his opponent's balls. The winner starts the second round by drawing a new playing circle and tossing the cochonnet to a new location on the playing field. The game continues until an individual or team obtains 13 points.

Pelote Basque

Pelote Basque is a well-known ball game played in southwestern France near the Spanish border. It has many variations that make it similar to handball, squash, and tennis. A small round rubber ball is propelled with the hand, a flat wooden bat or a basket. The traditional version of the game uses a playing arrangement similar to tennis, with a net positioned in the center of the court and opposing teams on each side of the net. Other forms of the game do not use a net. Instead, the ball is hit against a wall similar to racquetball. The International Federation of Pelote Basque has established playing rules for the various forms of the game. Jai Alai, a game popular in the southern United States, is a form of Pelote Basque.

Jeu de Paume

This ancient ball and racket game is also known as "royal tennis" or "court tennis." It is played indoors on a specially designed court that is approximately 96 feet long by 32 feet wide, although this can vary. Players use a hard ball and a racket with a pear-shaped head that curves slightly near the top. It is the forerunner of lawn tennis, the game played at Wimbledon.

About the Author

Gianna Maria has written for print and online publications since 1980. Her articles about parenting, education, travel, health, marketing and hobbies have appeared on websites such as Catholic Mom, 4Marks, Creative Homemaking and Epinions. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism and minors in French and foreign studies from the University of Minnesota.

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