It is Saturday and on the outskirts of Neu Wulmstorf (near Hamburg Harburg) a happy crowd of 11 men and women is gathering. All of them routinely carry a hard ball made of wood or rubber, each around 11,5 centimeters in diameter-size and around 850 grams in weight (average standard size for women and men). There is also a so-called stick or gaffle to conveniently pick up the ball or to simplify the search in the tall grass.
I feel really lucky that I am allowed to take a closer look at this ” Frisian national sports” for 2.5 hours. The cracks also practice this “open air bowling” (sometimes called “Irish Road Bowling” by using an iron ball) in terms of competitions up to German and European championships. Besides Germany, the Netherlands, Ireland and Spain are particularly successful in this kind of bowling. https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bo%C3%9Feln
My friendly host Willy Müller from the club TVV Neu-Wulmstorf (he is a gifted bossel-player) right away provides me with several information in advance. The origin of „bossling“ turns back to “Klootschießen/ clay shooting”, whereby the “throwing of those clay lumps” was originally used as a defense weapon. While the arm throwing technique of throwing clay bullets is considered to be more complicated, the technique of bossling along streets and paths is relatively easy to learn and accessible to a wider audience. With the formation of bossling classes and leagues for men and women around 1900, the Frisian national sport experienced a major upswing and became an integral part of sporting and cultural activities.
What is it about and what are the requirements for it?
- Find a suitable bossle route along small, low-traffic roads with a lenghts of 4-6 kilometers. A circular course or a route with a turning mark should be selected.
- Teams of 4-6 bosslers per group are most suitable for playing or a bossle competition.
- The aim of bossling is to use fewer throws than the opposing team for a given distance.
- The teams start at a drop line. Team 1 starts, Team 2 follows. It always the turn of the team which is lying behind. At the end of the game, a finish line hast to be crossed.
- In case of competitions and depending of the number of participating teams, additional regulations to determin the winner may apply.
When bossling, it is particularly important to find out about the nature/ structure of the route before throwing. In case of straight or clean routes, it is possible to make a strong and dynamic throw. Bossling experts make a strong start, pull the limb back shortly before the throw and then push it by jumping forward with great strength and accuracy. The curve technique is more sophisticated and requires a more sensitive throw; it is often the hour of the female players.
Basically bossling takes place all year round – even on snow. If you believe the “bosslers” and various press releases, they especially like to do it in autumn and winter. No matter how cold it is, just tough men and women. However, for safety reasons, you should not play on slippy grounds.
Before we break into two groups, the most important thing: below a street sign, an attention note to “Bossler en route” is attached. So let’s go to the track. By the wy, completely without a handcart packed with (alcoholic) bottles, as you might have heart or read about. Gaming fun yes, party fun no !
Thanks god there are neither cow pies on the right and left, nor drainage ditches where you have to fish out the balls in case of an unlucky throw. I quickly notice that there are basic rules and recommendations as to which position to take best for throwing or how to throw the ball. On the other hand, everyone seems to develop his/ her own individual throwing technique and experience with certains. In addition, some older balls show rough surfaces and therefore lie securely in the hand; new ones are smoother and usually roll better and longer. Men sometimes throw with a so-called 12er “plastic-bowl” with an encreased weight of 1.200 grams. Well, …
“Kiek ut” – attention, a bossle ball is coming! Some players try to throw off with a run-up and look pretty wild, others rather calm and body-controlled. You should really take a look, here is a small clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dE9f3RFmviY
Similar to golfing, the success often dependents on sensitivity in the shoulder, wrist and years of practice as well as “reading the course” with regard to the slope, curvature and edge structure. With more momentum and drive, men usually reach longer distances (up to 250 meters per throw). However, this is not a guarantee of distance, because especially a high bouncing ball can quickly touch down in the green instead of rolling along the edge of the grass shaped borderline like along a magic thread. This means that women can also achieve good lengths with less effort, because sometimes the ball rolls through the grass and turns back onto the path due to an swerve/ twist-effect. There is nothing that does not exist; some balls may even miraculously follow the curve. Even the slightest bumps, pebble or leaf remnants (which you cannot see from the distance in order to be considered) can quickly destroy a good throw, even for experts.
Accidents are rare, the players say. In addition, every club has an appropriate insurance in the event that the throwers damage the lights of a passing car or a garden fence (how convenient that a teammate is a former police officer).
Better and worse throws with my blue ball alternate and time flies by. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DUHaCjDYJD8. The atmosphere is pleasantly relaxed and the players cheer each other. Above all, our senior “Didi” (80 years), a former top player, is fully involved and fit. Since you don’t have to throw from a bent or twisted posture, the “bossling sport” is suitable for everyone until old age – for sure I’ll practice with them again on another occassion. “Post-Corona” – then perhaps with a concluding gathering with some coffee and cake or even a schnapps or a beer. Cheers !