The Skills of the Game – Pointing
Bocce is a game of strategy, a game of one-ups-manship, a game of hitting, even a game of “luck of the bounce.” But more than anything else, ours is a game of “touch.” The best courts play very fast so that even a gentle roll results in the ball travelling considerable distance. I see many different pointing styles among excellent players (palm up, palm down, rolling, lofting). Some toss the ball a few feet in front of the foul line, releasing all five fingers at once. For them the touch is in the backswing and the release. Others roll the ball off the fingertips and get a 12 o’clock to 6 o’clock rotation.
In The Joy of Bocce I tell about adapting an old baseball camp throwing drill to bocce. Most young ballplayers’ throws miss their target because of poor grip and/or throwing technique. We place a piece of electrical tape around a baseball and have the camper (Little Leaguer – small hands) place his middle finger on the stripe and his next fingers to the left and right, with the thumb catching the stripe at the bottom.
The baby finger is on the side of the ball. Next, the players enjoy a game of catch, and carefully watch the flight of the ball. With proper grip and throwing motion, the stripe will not wobble as the ball sails to its target. If you place a similar stripe on a bocce ball and work on an even release (rolling the ball off the fingertips), you’ll get proper rotation and a true roll.
I’ve noticed that many of the best players favor the following technique (discribed from the point of view of a right handed roller). They cozy up to the foul line and place their left foot close to the line. They bend very low and place the right foot well back toward the backboard. The only motion is in the swing of the arm.
No step is taken. Some maintain that a palm down delivery is a more natural motion for the arm. The palm up release requires an almost 180-degree rotation of the forearm. This, they maintain, increases the chance of the wrist or hand twisting inadvertently during release.
I have seen much success with all these styles. It’s a matter of finding what you like best and are comfortable with, and then playing enough to develop skill and confidence.
Basketball guru Dave DeVenzio describes in his book, Smart Moves, how he went to the playground early in the morning before high school to practice his game. His goal was to become the best basketball player in the nation, in part, by out-practicing the competition.
“The extra hours of practice I was getting were not nearly as important as the confidence I was developing. Nearly everyone with whom I was competing was sleeping while I was advancing, getting better.”– Dave DeVenzio
DeVenzio was named the best basketball player in Pennsylvania and one of the top five players in the nation. So, I want everybody reading this to develop the bocce confidence you need by getting up at 5:00 AM every day from now on to practice pointing.
The Bocce Guy