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Uniting students through sport


Exploits Valley High hosts Special Olympics bocce event

Students of all abilities from three central Newfoundland schools joined together to compete in a first-of-its-kind bocce competition at Exploits Valley High March 16 as part of the Special Olympics Unified Sport program.

Seven teams participated in the day-long event. Exploits Valley High and Botwood Collegiate fielded three teams each, while Leo Burke Academy entered one of their own.

“Today is our first try at unified bocce,” said Special Olympics Newfoundland and Labrador program director Mike Daly during the competition.

According to Special Olympics Canada’s website, “Unified Sport brings together people with and without intellectual disabilities on the same team. It was inspired by a simple principle: training together and playing together is a quick path to friendship and understanding.”

Unified Sport teams are made up of people of a similar age and ability to ensure practices are more fun and games more challenging and exciting for all.

“Having sport in common is just one more way that preconceptions and false ideas are swept away,” the website states.

Bocce is similar to curling in its rules. One team throws a neutral-colored ball, and then both teams must get their balls as close to the neutral ball as possible.
Daly’s philosophy is to make the event just like any regional school sport competition.

“From the way they come in with the opening ceremonies, to every team has a jersey, to getting fans in the stands,” Daly said. “I want our Special Olympic students to get the same opportunities that any other students gets in school.”

The seven teams were split up into two divisions, labeled orange and green. The Orange Division final saw the Exploits Valley High Snowbirds get the better of the Botwood Wonders, while the Exploits Valley High Leprechauns bested the Leo Burke Lightning in the Green Division final.

Bocce is one of three sports played under the unified rules, along with basketball and indoor soccer. Bocce was chosen as the first sport played at a unified tournament in central Newfoundland because of its straight-forward rules and team-building nature.

Daly says he wants these events on the school sports calendar.

“When school sport basketball is going on, we also want unified sport basketball going on,” Daly said of his goals.

Mackenzie Hogan took part in the competition as a member of the Exploits Valley High Eagles. It was his first time playing bocce, and he said seeing friends from other schools and interacting with them was even more fun than the actual sport. Hogan and his team won bronze in Orange Division.

“It’s a good opportunity for all students to come together, to have a good time and participate in sports together,” said Danika Card, an instructional resource teacher at Exploits Valley High. “It’s important for students to be partnered with their peers. Basically to build upon inclusion in our schools.”

The next unified sport to be played in central will be three-on-three basketball at the end of May. It still hasn’t been decided which school will host the competition.

jordan.maloney@advertisernl.ca

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