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Participation numbers in Special Olympics Bocce have almost doubled in the Australian state of New South Wales since 2013, thanks to portable courts and passionate volunteers.
New South Wales Special Olympics Bocce Sports Coordinator Mary Greig says 55 Special Olympics athletes participated in last month’s New South Wales Special Olympics State Bocce Competition, which took place at Charlestown Bowling Club on 11 September.
Charlestown Bowling Club was the venue for bocce at the 2013 Special Olympics Asia-Pacific Games, and Ms Greig says the games resulted in “a wonderful legacy”.
Volunteers had been needed to support the Special Olympics Asia-Pacific Games. Ms Greig approached several clubs, and Charlestown Bowling Club was picked to host the event thanks to its willingness to get involved in the event and help out with volunteers from the club.
“For the Asia-Pacific Games, we utilised the bowlers as volunteers and referees. I trained them up in preparation and gave them an opportunity to play. Now they store the eight courts, and have taken ownership of them.
“When we require the courts, our contact person puts the word out and the volunteers all come to the fore and want to participate. On the day of the competition, they put up the courts, referee the games, put on a barbecue and pack everything away. They love it and they ask when we're coming back.”
Ms Greig says between 12 and 20 volunteers usually put their hands up to support these eight court regional and state competitions. Charlestown Bowling Club has also taken on the role of running fortnightly training sessions for Special Olympics athletes, supporting Ms Greig in her role as a coach.
“The sport has grown since the Asia-Pacific Games and have-a-try days. Other regions have taken up bocce thanks to this success. I suppose it’s down to the ease of being able to go anywhere and play bocce”.