A Basque in Boise

Boise’s Pilota School project starts this month

Last spring the World Pilota Council (WPC) expressed their interest in becoming involved with Boise’s pala and pilota players. Their goal is to encourage more people to play and help create a Pilota School in Boise. In order to accomplish this objective, the WPC has developed a Plan called “Boise Project” (I will soon have the English version up) outlining the current situation of pilota and pala in Boise. Despite a pretty good number of players (half of them women) and annual pala leagues being organized for both men and women, these sports lack official structure, which hinders their growth.

Iñigo Gallaga, Technical Director of the Bizkaia Pilota Federation for 6 years, will be in Boise from September 23 to October 11. He is responsible for implementing the first technical stage of the project, which involves organizing a group to energize these sports, develop a Pilota School, and technical training sessions. He will also bring any necessary equipment to make this first stage a success (balls, palas or wooden rackets, etc.).

The second technical stage is scheduled to take place in May, coinciding with Boise’s Pilota Eguna (Day of Pilota). The WPC will evaluate then Boise’s work for the year and redirect any efforts if necessary.

For more information, please get in touch with Esther Ciganda.


Iñigo graduated in Physical Education in Vitoria-Gasteiz (1992), after studying Journalism in the University of Leioa (1999). He worked as a Physical Education teacher for 12 years, but now works as a firefighter in Bilbao, Bizkaia.

Sports, pelota in particular, are Iñigo’s passion. He has been the Technical Director of the Bizkaia Pilota Federation for the last 6 years and teaches in the pilota courses for coaches organized by the Basque Pilota Federation. He also gives conferences about Basque pilota history and writes historical articles about pilota for several magazines.

Iñigo has written two books on pilota, “Entrenamiento Físico y técnico de pelota” (1999) and “Entrenamiento escolar de pelota vasca” (2005).

I talked to Iñigo about his upcoming trip to Boise and what he’s got planned during his two weeks here.

Henar Chico: Are the training sessions only for adults or for kids too?
Iñigo Gallaga: I would like to direct the course specifically to work with children, but it’s always useful to train adults. We are also going to train with the girls who are coming to Bilbao in December.

HC: You mention a 10-14 age bracket for kids to start playing pilota or pala, would you be willing to allow younger kids?
IG: There is no problem starting with younger kids, below 10, but it’s important to have groups later, because kids learn very different depending on their age.

HC: When will the training sessions take place? 
IG: I will arrive in Boise on September 23rd at 18:00. And I will go back to Bilbao on October 11th at 15:00. I will be with all of you for 16 days, more or less. I think that I can start working on Sunday, the 25th, if possible. The first class could be for anyone interested in pelota. It is an audiovisual about pelota during the last centuries, not only for coaches. It should be in Spanish with a translator. We only need one room with chairs, and a projector with a white wall. On Monday we will start with the coaching course for the trainers and the people going to dynamic pelota in Boise. My intention is to keep in contact after the first stage, through Skype, email, or with a blog, to help the coaches during the season, planning the training sessions. I will come back in May to continue with the formation and redirect some things if necessary.

HC: The WPC has organized a Fronton & Trinquet tournament that will take place in Bilbao during the month of December. What’s the selection process to determine the pala girls who will compete in Bilbao during the month of December? How many girls will be selected?
IG: Who gets selected to go to Bilbao depends on NABO. I just want to help them improve their level. I think I could help people who are going to Bilbao because I live here, if they came without a coach.  

HC: Will the Basque Pelota World Council offer continuous support to the Boise Pilota School?
IG: We have designed a 5-year program where someone will go to Boise twice a year to help, plus continuous support during the year through Skype. I think that if the Pilota Council meets the commitment, I improve my English and we all working together, that should be enough for Boise to continue the work on its own after the 4-5 year period.  

HC:  What can we do from Boise to help you organize the pelota school and share the information?
IG: I would need to have some kids ready to take part in the school when I arrive. I know the dancing group in Boise is quite big. I think we should put one announcements and posters inviting the kids to begin playing pelota.  

HC: About you English classes, what are you looking for during the two daily hours?
IG: I only need someone who speaks English; I don’t pretend to have a teacher. I suppose that would be difficult. I would like to sit with someone for about two hours in my spare time (mornings?) to get help me with my pronunciation. We could read the newspaper, for example. Very easy. I think that it will be easier to get something organized if this person didn’t have to be the same one every day. I’m very nice!

Iñigo hopes that, apart from working with NABO’s team, he will also have an opportunity to help anybody who wants to improve. On Saturday and Sunday after his arrival he plans to work with the women goma players who have qualified for the tournament in December, as well as other girls who play goma. His first day to work with everyone else will be on Monday evening, when he will go over theory and techniques.

Thanks for passing by: ↓

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