Coming to a gym near you: bocce

Players and coaches of the 2021-22 Waynesboro bocce team pose for a team picture. PROVIDED PHOTO

WAYNESBORO – It seems there is no end to sports that can be added to a school’s menu.

Recently, swimming became a fully sanctioned sport at Waynesboro Area Senior High School. Last year, a new sport – with a unique format – was added at WASHS, and it is making an impact not just in terms of athletics but in relationship-building between learning support students and their mainstream counterparts.

Bocce, a sport that dates back to the Roman Empire and played predominantly in southeastern Europe for centuries before branching out to other countries, is sponsored by Special Olympics and pairs learning support students with regular education students in matches.

The team is coached by Matt Bosso and Ellen Holtzman, both employees of the Waynesboro Area School District. Waynesboro hosts Greencastle-Antrim at 3 p.m., Wednesday for its first match of the 2022-23 season.

“A lot of people, especially students, have never heard of bocce, so they have no idea what to expect,” said Bosso. “Mo bocce experience was limited to beach vacations. I definitely had to do my research before I started coaching. We were able to generate a lot of excitement around the team last year in our inaugural year.”

The team is composed of seven students in learning support classrooms and seven students in regular education classrooms.

Waynesboro is fielding two teams this season. There will be two courts set up inside the WASHS gymnasium.

The roster for team one is: Liberty Duncan, Kolton Gibney, Samuel Berendt, Mary Skehan, Zelie Musolino, William Boltz and Nathan Hunt.

The roster for team two is: Zachary Deardorff, Rachel Lingenfelter, Daniel Hunt, Michael Skehan, Ella Swart, Emma Ridge and Andrew Soffe.

“The students that are in the regular Ed classroom are not mentors to the other students,” Bosso pointed out. “They are their teammates. They compete with and against students in special Ed and regular Ed. During the matches, the coaches are not allowed to coach; we have to sit off on the side and watch. That being said, our athletes help coach each other during the matches.”

Traditionally played on soil or asphalt on a court measuring 90 feet in length and 13.1 feet wide, the object of bocce is to score points by placing the ball closest to the target ball. The team closest to the “pallina” is the only team that can score in any frame. The pallina measures 1 ½ inches in diameter, while the bocce ball (made of rubber with gel inside) is four inches in diameter.

Each team has four rolls per frame. The length of a match is either 16 points or 30 minutes.

“It’s rare for it to last to 16 points,” said Bosso, who teaches health and physical education at Waynesboro Area Middle School.

Holtzman teaches learning support at WASHS.

The measurement of the court in unified play is 60 feet by 12 feet.

“One of the best things about having a bocce program is having a sport that all students of any ability can participate in and earn a varsity letter to become a student-athlete at Waynesboro,” Bosso said. “Another thing I really enjoy is seeing the interactions with all of our athletes and the bonds that they develop throughout the course of the season.”

Waynesboro’s next competition is Jan. 4 at Carlisle, followed by a match at Greencastle-Antrim on Feb. 1.

Kolton Gibney rolls the ball during a frame during last season. PROVIDED PHOTO
Are you enjoying local news?

First Month 99¢