Out and about A day with

A day with a boules player

Audrey Armanet, championne bouliste © Dominique Ratinaud
By Doriane
Published on 24/10/2022

Can ‘boule lyonnaise’ be considered a high-level sport? After spending a day on the pitch with boules player Ophélie Armanet, we definitely think so.

While it is often confused with pétanque, a game from Provence, boule lyonnaise (which, as its name suggests, originated in Lyon, in the eighteenth century) is a different kettle of fish. It is played in singles or teams on a pitch that is divided into three main areas: the run-up area, the throwing area and the game area. The players’ aim is to place the most bronze boules as close as possible to a little wooden ball known as the ‘jack’. 

In 2019, there were 48,000 licensed players of the sport within the FFSB (Fédération Française du Sport-Boules, the French federation for boule lyonnaise), including a number of high-level sportspeople, such as Ophélie Armanet. Aged just 21, this young lady from Isère holds seven French championship titles for boule lyonnaise, in the ‘progressive shooting’ category.

She owes her accomplishments in part to her ancestry, as she was born into a family with an obsession for the sport: “I come from a family of boules players. My grandfather was an accomplished player and he passed his passion on to us. So, I started at a very young age, at around six.” Carrying the family tradition forward, Ophélie is a hard worker.

When she’s not studying, you can be sure to find her at the ‘boulodrome’ (an area for playing boules). She is currently in the third year of a psychology degree and practices every week: “I train there twice weekly, for three hours, to work on all the technical aspects of the game. I also lift weights and jog two to three times a week, as it is a physically demanding sport!”.

Despite the long hours she puts in, she is not seen as a professional athlete, because high-level boules players have not yet been granted that status. This is much to the annoyance of Ophélie, who campaigns to have the sport recognised as a profession, and is aiming to help raise the sport’s profile at the next Pentecost tournament in Lyon.

Audrey Armanet, championne bouliste © Dominique Ratinaud

A little bit of history

Created in the Lyon region in the 18th century, boule lyonnaise was initially seen as a pastime. It was not until 1850 that the game achieved the status of a sport, with the creation of the first official boules society – ‘Le Clos Jouve’ – in the Croix-Rousse district. In 1922, the regional federations of the Rhône, Dauphiné, Ain, Savoy, Alpes-Maritimes and Loire formed the Union Nationale des Fédérations Boulistes (UNFB), which would later become today’s Fédération Française de Sport-Boules (FFSB). While it was not selected as one of the official sports of the Paris 2024 Olympic Games, the sport has been listed as intangible cultural heritage in France since 2012.

Pentecost Tournament

No Lyonnais worth their salt is unfamiliar with the ‘Tournoi de Pentecôte’ (Pentecost Tournament)!
This event, which was created in 1894, was cancelled in 2020 and 2021, but will return from the 4th to the 6th of June 2022. It will be an opportunity to admire the skills of the several thousand players who will flock there from all over France.