“We’ve decided to create the league and bring bocce into our unified program because it offers something for all students,” says Brian Pane, special education teacher at Cheektowaga Central High School and a driving force behind the new league.
He says bocce is being embraced in Buffalo as an ideal sport for inclusion, bringing people together, and for forming friendships through team camaraderie and competitive spirit.
“The unified movement globally has blown up. In our area, we started our unified sports program with basketball, but I feel bocce is a great addition as it really brings together the student with an intellectual disability and their unified partner.
“When you’re playing bocce there’s more time to develop interpersonal relationships, more time to talk and strategize, and more time to celebrate success together.”
Mr Pane says the league starting this year will be a pilot, featuring 10 schools, all in Buffalo, with the farthest travel time between venues being 50 minutes. The Special Olympics bocce ruleset will be in play, keeping the game as authentic as possible.
The portable Packabocce courts used at the 2022 Unified Bocce Culminating Tournament were supplied by Special Olympics New York but organizers hope schools will be in a position to provide their own courts in future as the league continues to grow. Last year’s tournament was hosted as an extramural event through Special Olympics New York, but Mr Pane hopes to have the tournament officially recognized by the New York State Public High School Athletic Association by 2024.
“The thing that is a bit unique about what we are doing in Buffalo is that it’s high school-aged participants, rather than adults. Bocce is ideal for unified sport because all students can do it, and having the disability-accessible side walls on the Packabocce courts is an amazing touch as it provides access for everyone, including those in wheelchairs or with cerebral palsy.”
Mr Pane said Packaworld courts were easy to set up and the court walls allowed players to enjoy a more strategic and authentic game than courts marked with tape or cones.
“There are no words you can put on the value of the portable courts. They are fast to set up, easy to pick up in a vehicle, and the players love them. Having the courts just adds to game as you can use the walls to rebound and avoid the other team’s balls – it adds another dimension.”
The power of sport and the many benefits it brings – not just physically, but mentally and emotionally through human connection – is something that is fundamentally important to Packaworld chief executive Peter Roberts.
“The idea behind unified sports perfectly represents what Packaworld is all about: providing accessible equipment that allows people play the games they love, whenever and wherever,” Roberts says.
“We are super excited to see the growth of bocce in Buffalo and can’t wait to see athletes enjoying themselves at the new inter-school league."
Packaworld launched Packabocce courts in 2013. Since then, the portable 60-foot by 12-foot competition courts have been used at Special Olympics State Games in the USA, National Games across Europe and the Asia-Pacific, and Regional Games in Latin America.
In 2023 they will be in the spotlight on the biggest stage of all when they are used at the Special Olympics World Games in Berlin, Germany.
> Find out more about our portable bocce courts on our Packabocce product page.
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