Janet Kirtland brings joy of French sport to youngsters in Lake Oswego

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO: JANET KIRTLAND - This 4-year-old petanque player has his form and concentration down pat. But he does need work at keeping his feet within the throwing circle.When people think of the venerable sport of petanque they usually think of venerable Frenchmen (possibly with beards and wearing derbies) sitting around on a lazy afternoon, sipping beer, eating cheese and playing this relaxing but demanding game.

Enter Janet Kirtland, right here in Lake Oswego. She is teaching petanque to kids, little duffers as young as 3 1/2 years old, and everybody is having a wonderful time. When the kids screw up their faces in concentration it makes for quite a good show.

Think of Kirtland as a petanque missionary. She became a convert to the sport two and a half years ago, and almost a year ago she decided to spread her love of petanque to children.

"I love the game," Kirtland said. "It's all inclusive, and it's a really good game for children. With petanque you can really compete as a family." Kirtland is a lifelong lover of games, especially tennis, but she had never coached a sport before. However, she was uniquely qualified to start a kids' petanque club ("My harebrained idea.") because of her many years as a school teacher. The kids in her club, aged 4 to 10, may think they are just having fun, but at the same time they are learning things that will greatly help them all through their lives. Well organized as she is, Kirtland can list them quickly: measuring skills, teamwork, hand-eye coordination, distance judging, organization, following instructions, focus, concentration, sportsmanship. It's an awesome list.

Kirtland had a natural advantage in starting her kids petanque club because to begin with she had four grandchildren and one of their little friends. But she also had a big disadvantage because absolutely no one was making petanque equipment for kids.

"I researched online and I couldn't find any equipment," Kirtland said.

The solution turned out to be herself. Kirtland designed pentaque balls that fit the little hands of little kids and is now selling petanque sets on the club's Internet site

"Kids are good at petanque because they naturally keep their arms straight," Kirtland said.

However, kids are not naturally good at keeping their feet inside the throwing circle. They also prefer not to play marathon matches.

"I keep the games short," Kirtland said. "If they keep losing, they get bored, so they can't play too long."

It was in 2010 that Kirtland became hooked on petanque. She started playing in Portland, and she soon found out about the Lake Oswego Petanque Club, founded by the inimitable Johnny Prince. Kirtland found Lake Oswego to be great petanque country "because of its beautiful terrain," and she now has her 12 young petanquers practicing in Foothills Park and Millennium Plaza Park.

Now she has big plans for her club.

"I want to get more kids," Kirtland said. "I think having our new website is going to help that a lot. I want them to keep playing until they can use real petanque balls and they can play as juniors."

Who knows? Maybe the local landscape will some day be dotted with kids playing petanque.

And it will all be due to Janet Kirtland.

Contract Publishing

Go to top
Template by JoomlaShine