Consulting with the team coach

Periodically, questions appear on petanque forums about how, and whether, a team can consult with its coach during a game.

Before we get too deep into this topic, let’s immediately settle two basic points.

First, players ARE allowed to confer with their coach during a game, and coaches ARE allowed to offer advice to their players. HOWEVER, there are appropriate procedures for doing this, which we’ll discuss in a minute.

Second, in competitions on marked terrains the only people allowed on the terrain during a game are the players and the umpires. Coaches, like other spectators, are not allowed on the game terrain. This rule is often simply assumed, although sometimes it is explicitly written into tournament rules. Sometimes the coach is allowed to sit inside the crowd-control barriers. More frequently, coaches, managers, and alternate team members have a special area reserved for them in the spectators area.

In this tournament, the competition organizers have allowed coaches to sit inside the steel crowd-control barriers, as long as they stay outside of the wooden surround and don’t come onto the terrain proper.

The FIPJP rules have nothing specific to say about coach-player consultation. The behavior of coaches, therefore, is governed by the same rules that govern spectator behavior in general. Similarly, the behavior of players toward their coach is governed by the rules that govern player behavior in general.

Article 16 – Behavior of players and spectators during a game
During the regulation time given to a player to throw his boule the spectators and players must observe total silence. The opponents must not walk, nor gesticulate, nor do anything that could disturb the player.

This means that while a player is throwing, coaches, spectators, and the other players must stay motionless and quiet. At other times they should maintain a reasonable calm and quiet, and not do anything by word or action to distract the opposing players or to interfere with the smooth progress of the game.

Not to put too fine a point on it, this means that while one player is throwing, the other players cannot shout across the terrain to ask their coach for advice, or walk across the terrain to consult with him. And of course the obverse is also true — a coach cannot shout instructions or advice at his players. Players and coaches should NEVER attempt to communicate by gesturing wildly in the other’s direction. If one or more of the players wish to communicate with their coach, they should wait until it is their team’s turn to throw, then walk over to where the coach is sitting and talk quietly.

While they are conversing, player and coach should remember the one-minute rule — the player is allowed only one minute to throw his boule. That means that players and coaches must keep their consultations short and to the point. Typically, the first violation of the one-minute rule will earn a player a yellow card and a warning from the umpire, but not a penalty. No big deal. But players need to be careful about gross or repeated violations of the one-minute rule — that can earn them more serious penalties.

Some players are confused about whether or not they are allowed to confer with their coach, because they remember Article 31, which says that—

No player may absent himself from a game or leave the game terrains without the permission of the Umpire.

Players sometimes misunderstand this rule as saying that, during a game, players can’t step outside the boundaries of the terrain in order to walk over and talk to their coach.

That is a mistake — that’s not what Article 31 is about. Players are of course allowed to step outside the boundaries of the terrain. In fact, when a player isn’t throwing, standing outside of the terrain boundary is the best place to be. If a boule or jack unexpectedly flies across the terrain and hits a player, there will be no problem — the boule or jack will have gone out-of-bounds before being stopped.

Article 31 has nothing to do with stepping outside of a terrain to consult with your coach. As international umpire Mike Pegg says

The rule about leaving the terrain/lane is not designed to prevent a player stepping out of the lane to talk to his coach who is standing or sitting at the end of the lane. The rule is is designed to deal with players that move way from the lane or the playing area to get a coffee, have a smoke, go to the toilet, etc.

The bottom line is that players definitely ARE allowed to walk over to the edge of the playing area and confer with their coach. They just need to behave appropriately when they do it.


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