Practice makes perfect

Mark Shirkey

“To become really good at anything, you have to practice and repeat, practice and repeat, until the technique becomes intuitive.” Paulo Coelho

For most people pétanque is a pastime, for a few others, it is a consuming passion. A holy grail pursuit inspired and brought on the wings of angels. Like priesthood, it requires a faith and discipline that few people possess.

Yesterday I had the pleasure to play with against Mark Shirkey and I could not help but notice his growing dexterity. He has become a solid “shooter” (and pointer) and least but not last, he is blessed with an excellent form. He has a fluid style, smooth and graceful, and it is always a pleasure to photograph him. His team also gave us a good drubbing.

In any discipline, people like to compete against better players. For as the French dramatist Pierre Corneille wrote, “There is no glory in winning an easy battle.” And that’s why people like to tussle with Mark. He is a tough dude and winning (sometimes) against him is such an accomplishment.

Mark (and Sandra) eat and sleep (and probably dream) pétanque. They practice almost daily, and this perseverance has paid off big dividends. They have started to make a name for themselves in the Bay Area, and who knows… someday in the world.

They have the equipment, they know all the rules and the pétanque jargon, but to my mind they are still missing something. To be real bona fide players, they must learn to curse… In French naturally! They don’t need a huge vocabulary, just a few energetic, colorful words like “merde”, “bordel” and “putain” (preferably pronounced “putaing”).

Pétanque aficionados are usually passionate people, prone to curse or yell over a missed shot, and when they fall short of the mark thry need to let off some steam.

But I don’t think that it is Mark’s style. He is a cool dude and (unlike little unholy me) I never heard him curse, or even voice disappointment over a missed shot. He is as stoic as Seneca the Younger.

Ann Krilanovich

 When I think of steadfast practice, the name of Ann Krilanovich also comes to mind. She took up the sport fairly recently, and in a few short months, she has become the incarnation of Miss Pétanque. She plays almost daily, has probably visited all the Bay Area clubs and knows anybody worth knowing.

Just like for Mark, daily practice has helped her a great deal. She is now a reliable pointer and a budding shooter, but above all she is very friendly and has a great sense of humor. Does she have any other relatives that we could entice to play with us?

All the above to say that there is no shortcut to glory. To win, you must practice, practice and practice again. Maybe, just maybe, it could metamorphose you into a great competitor like Mark.


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