Story & Reporting by Diane Roberts, 9 Sports
ROCKVILLE, Md. (WUSA) — Bocce ball is an Italian sport, usually played on soil or asphalt, where the object of the game is to roll a ball as close as possible to the yellow one, a pallino.
It’s a varsity sport in Montgomery County, started in response to Maryland’s Fitness and Equality Act for students with disabilities.
Here, abled and disabled students play together. On Thursday, Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School and Rockville High faced off for a match.
“We want it to be meaningful to student athletes and to their families and to the school — that they are part of the school community and they’re doing something meaningful and dignify that,” said B-CC athletic director, Jim Tapley.
Fifteen-year-old Khary Taylor of B-CC is on the autism spectrum. He just started playing bocce ball this year and likes everything about it. Khary’s mom, Courtney Keeler says the sport has really changed her son, for the better.
“He’s really grasping the concept of having a team, working with other people. Having Asperger’s he tends to be more withdrawn and not as social, and I think this really brings out the things that you want with Asperger’s the opportunity to make friends, to be competitive and really be a part of something,” said Keeler.
The popularity of Unified Bocce is growing. About 20 Montgomery County schools participate now, up from about seven last year. No matter how many schools are involved, the object is to win, but mainly, it’s just fun and inclusive.