During the development of teacher training resources, Sport Canterbury identified Petanque as a valuable tool which could be used to promote and develop sporting activities for less able students.
Christchurch Petanque in conjunction with Sport Canterbury held a meeting in April 2001 with the teachers running the Special Needs Units at various Christchurch Secondary schools. This group was looking for a suitable summer sport and venue to complement their existing winter soccer and swimming programme.
After the entire group was taught Petanque in 1 minute ... they were hooked !
A Special Needs league was mooted to start the following October for a 6 week period concluding in November. Entries were arranged via the existing College of Education programme and in the first year there were 16 triples teams. By 2003 the word had spread and we had 26 triples teams.
The number of teams meant an enormous commitment by Club members for a 6 week period on every Wednesday from 1-3pm. All teams came with at least one teacher and/or caregiver and the Christchurch Petanque members were solely responsible for showing the students how to play Petanque and supervising the game and changeovers in between games. We learned very early on that the students identified with colour so each pool of four teams played in a particular colour pool, the helpers wore that colour shirt and name tag, the pool results were on that colour paper and they played on the same terrains each week and their scoreboards also had a ribbon of the same colour.
Leading on from the colour theme, we discovered that Spotlight had coloured boule in stock. Sport Canterbury came to the rescue and purchased 8 sets of coloured boule for the league and these are retained at Christchurch Petanque for the use of the league and other community groups. Prior to this we had painted half our boule blue (or bleu) and left the remainder silver. The coloured boule have become a valued tool for teacher training sessions as these are usually held on grass.
This league took a lot of behind scenes organizing, with the preparation of the draw, organization of personnel, compilation of results and provision of the results on a weekly basis to the College of Education website.
There have been several attempts to involve mainstream secondary schools in Petanque but none have been overly successful. Some schools did come to a weekly sports session but as so few schools were involved interest soon petered out.
Petanque has been used as a 'breaking the ice' mechanism for some of the English tutoring schools catering for overseas students. We mix the students up into various teams and nationalities and this forces them to mix and communicate with other plus our Petanque helpers.
None of these activities could take place without the efforts of dedicated helpers and their efforts have helped to make the game and sport of Petanque available to all.