Saturday 18 September 2021

Boccia, A Sport That Improves Quality of Life For Disabled Persons

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Photo courtesy of Teletica
Photo courtesy of Teletica

Boccia is a precision ball sport, similar to bocce, and related to bowls and pétanque. The name Boccia is derived from the Latin word for boss – bottia.

The sport is contested at local, national and international levels, by athletes with more severe physical disabilities. It was originally designed to be played by people with cerebral palsy but now includes athletes with other severe disabilities affecting motor skills.

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On Saturday, the School of Occupational Therapy of the Universidad Santa Paula in Curridabat, held their “Boccia” workshop, for students and professionals to know the sport.

The workshop was aimed at physical educators, special education teachers and physical therapists. The objective was to recognize the positive impact generated by this sport for people with special needs.

Erick Valdelomar Marín, Director of the School of Occupational Therapy at the University, said “we seek to promote the sport to children from different schools of special education in Costa Rica”.

In 1984 it became a Paralympic sport, and in 2008 was being practiced in over fifty countries worldwide. Boccia is governed by the Cerebral Palsy International Sports and Recreation Association (CPISRA) and is one of three Paralympic sports that have no counterpart in the Olympic program.

Paralympics Beijing 2008. Photo courtesy  CPISRA
Paralympics Beijing 2008. Photo courtesy CPISRA

Boccia can be played by individuals, pairs, or teams of three. All events are mixed gender. The aim of the game is to throw leather balls — coloured red or blue (which side gets which is determined by a coin toss) – as close as they can to a white target ball, or jack. The jack is thrown first, then the first two regular balls are played, (first, the player who threw the jack then the opposing side), after which, the side furthest away from the jack goes next in an attempt to either get closer to the jack or knock the opposition’s ball out of the way. In this fashion, each end will continue until one side has played all their balls, at which point, the opposing side will play their remaining balls. The balls can be moved with hands, feet, or, if the competitor’s disability is severe, with an assistive device such as a ramp. At the end of each round, or end, the referee measures the distance of the balls closest to the jack, and awards points accordingly — one point for each ball that is closer to the jack than the opponent’s closest ball. The team/player with the highest number of points at the end of play is the winner. If both teams have the same amount of points after all ends have been played, one additional end is played to determine a winner.

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The number of ends and balls in each end depends on the side makeup. Individual competition consists of four ends and six balls per player per end, whilst paired competition is four ends and six balls per pair per end (three per player). Team competition is six ends, and six balls per team per end (two per player).

History of Bocce
Throwing balls toward a target is the oldest game known to mankind. As early as 5000 B.C. the Egyptians played a form of bocce with polished rocks. Graphic representations of figures tossing a ball or polished stone have been recorded as early as 5200 B.C.

Italian men playing Bocce in San Giorgio a Cremano, Naples, Italy
Italian men playing Bocce in San Giorgio a Cremano, Naples, Italy

While bocce today looks quite different from its early predecessors, the unbroken thread of bocce’s lineage is the consistently common objective of trying to come as close to a fixed target as possible. From this early objective, the basic rules of bocce were born. From Egypt the game made its way to Greece around 800 B.C. The Romans learned the game from the Greeks, then introduced it throughout the empire. The Roman influence in bocce is preserved in the game’s name; bocce derives from the Vulgate Latin bottia, meaning boss.

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The early Romans were among the first to play a game resembling what we know as bocce today. In early times they used coconuts brought back from Africa and later used hard olive wood to carve out bocce balls. Beginning with Emperor Augustus, bocce became the sport of statesman and rulers. From the early Greek physician Ipocrates to the great Italian Renaissance man Galileo, the early participants of bocce have noted that the game’s athleticism and spirit of competition rejuvenates the body.

The Latin-European Tradition
Italy and France have produced two main games, codified relatively recently, with broad similarities. They began and remain predominantly open-air activities, played on long, rectangular pitches originally improvised from rough village spaces during hot, dry summers. These have surfaces of raked sand or gravel on which the tossed balls fall and stick, rather than roll. Both games are still often played informally in the village and cafe tradition by men of all ages, but they have now acquired national and international competitive networks and, in many cases, dedicated indoor facilities that allow for year-round play in urban areas.

Bocce uses a “court,” “alley,” or “rink” approximately 18.3 meters long by 2.4 meters wide (60 feet by 8 feet). Increasingly, facilities usually provide several of these side by side, as do dedicated areas found in many public parks. There are foul areas at each end of the court. The small target ball, the pallino, is then tossed from one end and must land at least 1 ¼ meters (5 feet) beyond center. Each player then aims to throw his bowl, which is heavier than the pallino, as close as possible to the target. This is usually done after a walk-up of several steps within the foul area. The throw is complicated by variations on the way the target is approached, according to regional practices. Competitors comprise two players with two shots each or teams of three to six people using fours shots each. If a bowl displaces others already in place it is disqualified. The winner of a game is the first to score 9-15 points in pairs, or 9-18 in a team competition.

Italy stages a number of regional competitions, reinforcing the country’s strong regional rivalries. International play is largely limited to Italy and France, which occasionally compete at adult and juvenile levels in grandly titled tournaments. There is a cup provided by the prince of Monaco, whose territory lies between the two main contenders, and the results have long been dominated by Italy. Although it now has the superstructures of a modern sport, bocce is still largely local and recreational in its appeal. Given its peasant origins, it is hardly surprising that it remains male-dominated, although a small number of women play. Despite its growing complexity, its appeal lies in its being a “sport simpatico e popolare” in the words of a recent enthusiast –something essentially part of an Italian summer.

Sources: Teletica, Wikipedia,

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"Rico" is the crazy mind behind the Q media websites, a series of online magazines where everything is Q! In these times of new normal, stay at home. Stay safe. Stay healthy.

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