Boccia is played every Saturday morning at Colwood Community Hall. (Tim Collins/News Gazette staff) 

Boccia provides opportunity for athletes of all abilities

Ancient game has been adapted for indoor play

Every Saturday morning The Victoria Screamers, a group of athletes from the West Shore, gather at the Colwood Community Hall to participate in a sport that has seen some of them travel to tournaments around North America. But for the group, it’s just about having fun.

While the game has its roots in the classic outdoor sport invented in Italy hundreds of years ago, the indoor version played by the Screamers was developed in the early 1980s as a way to eliminate many of the setbacks that athletes with disabilities faced when they were unable to take part in some sports such as track and field, swimming, weight-lifting and cycling.

“Our group is made up of people with a variety of challenges. Several of them suffer from cerebral palsy, spina bifida and autism, but they all enjoy the sport and it’s great because it challenges them physically and mentally,” said club president Kelly Halpen.

The game is similar to traditional boccia, although this version has been designed to be played indoors. The much softer balls can be thrown onto a hardwood floor without damage.

Each team is given six balls and after one side has thrown the jack – a white ball that forms the target – the two teams proceed to throw their initial balls as close as they can to the target. The side not closest continues to throw balls until they are closer than their opponent or they are out of balls. At that point the opposing team throws the remainder of their balls.

Sides are awarded points based on how many of their balls are closer to the jack than their opponent’s closest ball.

“For those players who can’t actually throw their balls, we have a ramp arrangement that allows them to roll their ball and we have people help them out with their turns,” Halpen said. “It’s all set out in the rules set by Boccia Canada.”

Boccia Canada is closely associated with the Canadian Cerebral Palsy Sport Association and is focused on providing athletes and individuals of all ages the chance to play this unique sport.

The Screamers are hosting an invitational tournament on Feb. 10 at the Colwood Community Hall as part of their 10th anniversary celebrations. It’s a one-day event with a $75 entry fee (for athlete and sports assistant). Halpen hopes the tournament will attract athletes from across the country and will help spur more registrations locally for the Screamers, who are always looking for new members.

For more information on the Victoria Screamers, or to register for the Club Invitational Tournament, contact Halpen at dominator211@gmail.com.

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editor@goldstreamgazette.com

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