The School Newspaper of Winston Churchill High School.

The Observer

The School Newspaper of Winston Churchill High School.

The Observer

The School Newspaper of Winston Churchill High School.

The Observer

Bocce team finds success in inaugural season

CHS’s newest sport may not be frequented by cheerleaders or regularly covered by the Daily Dose, but it is making an impact. Bocce, a varsity club sport that began earlier this year, has been a unique and positive experience for the 11 students who participated in bocce’s first season at CHS.

The object of bocce is to roll a medium-sized medicine ball as close to a smaller white ball as possible. Players try to get their team’s balls closer than their opponent’s in order to score points. Each team gets exactly four throws per round, and the first team to score 16 points wins.

Bocce is considered a “corollary” sport, which according to the website for MCPS Athletics, means it is “designed for students with and without disabilities who are interested in playing sports but do not have a desire to play at a highly competitive level.”

The ability of the bocce team to allow all students to participate, including those in the five special education programs at CHS, is what sets bocce apart from other mainstream sports. Bocce also makes specific accommodations for those with physical disabilities, such providing ramps for students in wheelchairs.

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Bocce coach and resource teacher Jaime Marchese believes that the sport has had an encouraging effect on the students in the special education program.

“I think it gives them confidence in who they are,” Marchese said. “It provides them with an opportunity to learn a great sport, meet new people and make new friends.”

Though many athletes on the CHS Varsity team are in one of CHS’s special education programs, a large number are not. Junior Alex Berrimen joined the team after he saw a notice for it being displayed on one of the many televisions positioned around CHS.

“I joined bocce because I saw it as a great opportunity to join a varsity sport which integrates students in the Bridge program and all other students,” Berrimen said.

Sophmore Max Wolpoff also wanted to take advantage of playing a varsity sport. Though he mainly participates in school theater productions, he saw a break in the theater schedule as an opportunity to join the team.

“It’s a fun activity to do,” Wolpoff said. “I’m not going to play any other sports, so this the best shot I’ve got.”

CHS is only one of many schools that have recently incorporated bocce into their programs.

According to the website for the Maryland division of the United States Tennis Association, bocce has recently been integrated into over 70 Maryland high school athletic programs since 2011. In addition to high schools, the sport has also seen growth among adult and senior divisions. Many schools are adding bocce to their athletic programs due to the opportunities that the sport affords those in special education programs.

“Just because students have disabilities does not mean they are limited in their skills,” Berrimen said. “I think bocce is a great example of this.”

In many ways, the atmosphere of a bocce competition is similar to other major high school varsity sports. At larger competitions, such as the Feb. 2 Divisional Championship at B-CC High School, parents and friends filled the stands to support the players as they competed in a round-robin style tournament for a State Championship berth. The Fox 5 News team even had a camera crew present to film the athletes in action as CHS finished with a 3-2 record in the competition.

“When parents and staff come to support our games, there is plenty of cheering,” Berrimen said. “If the score is close, anything can happen. Games get pretty nerve-wracking.”

According to Marchese, the team’s first season has been a success due to the cooperation of all those who helped spur the team’s creation and growth.

“Teamwork is what made us successful,” Marchese said. “Between the coaches, the players, the school staff, parents and the community, everyone had a part in developing this team. And because of that, the players felt supported and were motivated to give it their all.”

The team finished this season with a 3-3 record, which, along their success at Divisionals, allowed them to go to the bocce state championships at the University of Maryland Feb. 12, where the team finished 7th place in their division.

“We had great participation, a lot of interest, the players played their hearts out, and we had a fantastic season,” Marchese said.

Bocce has made an impression on many of its players, as well as its first-year coach, who plans on staying with the team for another season.

According to Marchese, she “absolutely” will be coaching the team next year.

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Bocce team finds success in inaugural season