Running a Youth League

This page provides an insight into how one club developed a successful Schools Petanque League

Running a Schools Petanque League  (from Dunedin City Petanque)

Over the last three years we (Dunedin City Petanque) have been working on getting a schools petanque league operational in the Dunedin area. This year I feel we have achieved success and sustainability, with 26 students from year 7 to 13 enrolled, with most keen to come back in the 4th term. I thought it would be useful to share our process with other clubs which may wish to get more involved with the youth in their area.

We need to encourage youth to take up the sport at an age and stage when they can be trained in all aspects of the sport if we are to develop champions of the future. Many areas, including Dunedin, run successful one day school petanque competitions on an annual basis, but this is primarily a day off school for most students and does not transfer into the youth taking any interest in petanque or coming back for more. To engage the youth, they need sustained contact with the sport to develop an interest in taking it further or seeing it as a viable sport option.

There are three key elements that you need to bear in mind:

  1. Each Secondary School and most Intermediate Schools will have a sports coordinator and these people are key to the success of the venture.
  2. The Regional Secondary Schools Association do regular mail outs to all sports coordinators and this is the appropriate way to send messages to them.
  3. It is advisable to make contact with your local Regional Sports organisation to get their support and advice and they have a coordinator who can contact the Intermediate Schools.

Year one (2017) was spent planning and working out what could work and talking to individual school sports coordinators that I knew, finding out who to contact and how it all worked.    

After we had developed a workable plan, we approached the Otago Secondary Schools Association (OSSA) with the concept of an 8-week league in term one (Summer League) and an 8-week league in term four (Spring League) each year.  It was proposed to run the leagues after school on a weekday, where neither teachers or sports coordinators had to be involved, other than promoting and sending through registrations. (This is very important to its success as teachers are already overburdened with extracurricular activities and are reluctant to take on new ventures that they have to be involved in). The cost to students would be minimal $2 per person per week or $15 for the term.  The OSSA were interested, and we were invited to present the plan to the OSSA’s sport coordinators meeting (just 5 minutes, so we had to be really prepared). The Sports Coordinators agreed to promote it if we sent a flyer out at the beginning of term one.

The next step was to develop a colourful poster/flyer with basic information. (see attached sample).  This was sent to the OSSA, who send it out to all Sports Coordinators in the very first week of term, in turn the sports coordinators gave it to interested pupils to take home.

Year two (2018).  The flyers went out (only to Secondary Schools) the first week of term and the programme started in week three of term one, so it was a quick registration process, but we allowed registrations right up to the day and even on the first day. Not all schools are good at sending in the registrations, so make sure there is a contact name and number on the flyer because some of the youth come directly to the programme.

Once the youth arrive, I complete a more detailed registration form, including a contact for a parent. I include as many cell phone numbers and emails as possible in case I have to cancel the event at any point.

In the first Summer League of 2018 we had just eight registrations, it was a start. Although the numbers were small, they seemed engaged and attended regularly which we were pretty happy about. In the Spring League (term 4) we had 5 returning players and two new players, so just seven registrations. While we were disappointed there were not more players, we realised we could have promoted it better. So, when the OSSA had their next meeting in September 2018, we went back and presented to the Sports Coordinators again and asked them to give it a push with students for next year. We also decided to open it up to Intermediate age youth and contacted the coordinator for these schools who is employed by the local Regional Sports organisation, Sport Otago. We got her to promote it in the same way as the OSSA does. We then divided them into years 7-9, a junior league and years 10-13, a senior league (always with the proviso that there were enough entries to divide the groups). Year 9 was deliberately included in the junior league to encourage crossover between Intermediate and Secondary school as well as the fact that year 9 pupils are quite young compared to year 13 pupils. We also asked the players that had been involved to spread the word as much as possible. We also promoted it on Facebook, in the newspaper (sports draw and results) and talked about it with anyone who would listen.

Year three (2019).  Once again the poster went to schools in the first week of school and we started the programme in week three.  This year we had 20 players register for the first week and another six on the second week. At total of 19 in the Senior League and seven in the Junior League. This was very exciting for us and much more so for the students. Of that 26, about 20 attended almost all sessions, with a few dropping out during the term. Not all students can attend every week due to a host of reasons, illness, school camps, exams, other commitments, so the numbers do fluctuate week by week, however we never had less than 16 on any day during the term.

On the day and Format
We have a spreadsheet containing all their information and tick them off once they have paid for the day.  Many take up the option of paying for the term which makes it easier, but others paid weekly. 100% of that money goes back into the programme. We used to start at 3.30 pm but found that was too early as many students do not get out of school till 3.25 pm. We now start at 3.45 pm, but you could start later at say 4.00 pm to allow for transport issues. The sessions as we run them last 1 ¾ to 2 hours.

When the youth arrive after school, we ensure we have biscuits, hot drinks, water, sometimes other nibbles e.g. chips, lollies or popcorn and greet all the students personally, making them feel welcome. We try to keep the mood very upbeat.

We run the session as a three or four round Melee, where each round they play with a different person, against different people.  We use the Sport Software used by PNZ, which has a fantastic Melee programme.  It takes less than a minute to set it up and we simply add each student’s name when they arrive. By the time the last person arrives, the first draw is up, and we get started. I have the draw on a monitor, so they come check it out and go to their terrains. If there is an uneven number of players, we have one or two of the parents or less experienced club members fill in or if that is not an option, we have a bye and they are offered individual coaching during that time.  Interestingly most take up the opportunity for coaching. On the very first day of the league, we play three rounds and the first 20 minutes is a group coaching/rules session, followed by play. We keep the rules very basic and gradually educate over the period of the league, rather than bombard them will rules.

All players play against each other, no matter whether they are in the junior or senior league. We play for 20 minutes and finish the end they are on when time is up.  If teams are drawn, each player plays one ball to break the tie. This is done to keep the play moving as we have a short time frame. They then bring in their scores and start the next round. We do not have a long break between games, to keep everything moving. So, the rounds are at 3.45 pm; 4.10 pm 4.35 pm and 5.00 pm approx. The sessions finish at 5.30 pm. At the end of the session the sport software programme will give you a ranking of 1st place to infinity. We present the 1st, 2nd, & 3rd place getters of the day (both groups combined) with small prizes ($10 warehouse voucher 1st; block of chocolate 2nd; candy bar 3rd total cost of $13.00 per session). That way various individuals get rewarded, not just the top three at the end of the league and it provides regular and immediate reinforcement. We run both the Summer league for 8 weeks in term one, from week 3 to week 10, finishing on the last week of term. The Spring league is run in term 4 for 8 weeks from week 1 to week 8, finishing early December.

The winners of both the year 7-9 league and 10-13 league get 1st; 2nd; & 3rd medals and an annual trophy for 1st place.   On the last day we only run three rounds and we put on afternoon tea and a presentation and invite parents, grandparents, teachers to attend.  

               Senior Winners                  Junior Winners                                                             
                        2019 Summer League Winners                                 2019  Summer League Winners   
                                   Senior - year 10-13                                                   Junior – year 7-9

At the end of every session I put the results in the Otago Daily Times and on the Dunedin City Petanque Facebook site, which both publicises the event for other potential players and allows the youth to see their name in the paper.   

The most exciting part of the process is the youth are excited by the sport, are engaged (six of the youths are now members of 2 different petanque clubs in Dunedin), most are keen to come back in term 4 and some of them are showing a great deal of promise.

Next Stage

As a result of this last term, we have identified at least 10 youth who we believe have the potential to be trained into exciting very capable petanque players. The next step is to invite those youth, in writing, through their parents to form a youth training squad. We are not expecting all 10 to take up the offer, but I believe there are at least 8 who will. They will work with a coach(es) regularly to develop all aspects of their game and we will provide ongoing training and competition experience for them.  

This stage is a work in progress, and we are hoping to obtain funding from Sport NZ or other agencies to set up ongoing opportunities for them e.g. getting together with other youth around the country, setting up youth tournaments, bringing in an overseas coach etc.


This process has taken time and a lot of energy to get running but we are now confident it is sustainable and that the schools in our area know this is available as an option. Most Secondary School Associations put out a booklet to all schools with the dates of significant events in it for each year.  In Otago this is compiled in September/October the year before. We make sure we have all the dates ready for that booklet, so it is on the schools’ radar from day one. We put in registration dates, play dates and times for both Summer and Spring Leagues and our annual school competition which we hold as a one-day event at the end of term three.

What the Schools need to know

The things that appeal to the Sports coordinators and the school in general are:

  • It is an ideal sport for non-sporty, disabled, or youth recovering from injury, so it caters for different youth to some of the mainstream sports.
  • It is a great sport for encouraging gentle sustained activity, but pupils do not have to be fit, fast or strong, the usual requirements for sport to be successful.
  • No teacher or sports co-ordinator involvement is required during the actual league.  Once registered we deal solely with the youth or the parents.
  • It is totally out of school hours.
  • All sessions are fully supervised.
  • It is a very low-cost – ($2 per week), with no joining fees and a pair of closed in shoes.
  • No experience is required.
  • Very easy to learn.
  • Uses maths (counting, measuring, judging distances), strategic thinking, teamwork, social cooperation, learning new skills, rules and discipline, all of which align with the school’s curriculum
  • Free coaching is provided
  • All equipment is supplied

Essentials for success

  • Develop a good relationship with the Secondary Schools and Intermediate Schools Liaison person and your local Regional Sports body.
  • Promote it at every opportunity you get.
  • Youth get bored easily, so keep the process moving, short games, little down time.
  • Keep it fun and light.
  • Be upbeat, positive and enthusiastic about the sport and their potential in it.
  • Provide lots of positive reinforcement for good play.
  • Keep the rules simple and gradually educate rather than overload or over regulate
  • Offer coaching whenever possible – If they are keen to take it up, that’s a positive sign.
  • Keep them fed and watered.
  • Allow them to talk, laugh, use their cell phones, it’s what teenagers do.
  • Treat them with the same respect as you would any member of your club.
  • Call them by their first name, get to know them, so they feel a part of something.
  • Involve the parents when you can, get them on board – they are also potential members.
  • Identify youth with talent and invite them to the next process.

I am always happy to discuss any aspect of this venture with anyone and am willing to help them set it up on the sport software, spreadsheets etc.  The more areas that get a league up and running the better opportunities it will provide for competition for the youth.  Please let me know if you do manage to get a league going so we can keep in touch and support one another, organise competitions etc. 

Stefany Frost
Club Captain
Dunedin City Petanque
June 2019
021 717 080



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