'Anybody can succeed': Boccia Canada looking to grow sport on P.E.I.

·3 min read
Simone Collins has been practising boccia at home for a few months now. Her mom says 'she loves it.' (Kirk Pennell/CBC News - image credit)
Simone Collins has been practising boccia at home for a few months now. Her mom says 'she loves it.' (Kirk Pennell/CBC News - image credit)

Simone Collins aims her blue ball at the target and tosses it. It lands close to the ideal spot. Although she's new to the sport of boccia, she's already quite good at it.

The 11-year-old lives with mild cerebral palsy and a chromosome disorder. She's been practising boccia at home for a few months now, but today is her very first time facing off against a competitor.

"As a parent, it's really great to see a sport that she's able to do really well," says Anna Collins, Simone's mom.

"She can't participate in something like the hockey sports or even baseball that some of her friends do, so this was great to have an option for her to do."

'We can find a spot for you'

There isn't an official boccia program in the province, according to the executive director of ParaSport and Recreation P.E.I., and that's what she is trying to change.

Kirk Pennell/CBC News
Kirk Pennell/CBC News

"I think it's something that, we can definitely easily implement here in P.E.I.," said Tracy Stevenson. "I didn't realize how big the sport was and how big it could be."

The sport, which is similar to bocce, was originally created for athletes with disabilities such as severe cerebral palsy, although it is quite inclusive and can be played by anyone.

Some describe it as a mix between curling and lawn bowling. The goal is to propel the ball toward a target and have it land as close as possible to the mark.

Kirk Pennell/CBC News
Kirk Pennell/CBC News

"If you can't throw the ball, you certainly can kick it and then there are other people who may have no motion and any of their limbs and they can actually use a head pointer or a ramp to propel the ball," said Peter Leyser, the executive director of Boccia Canada.

"There are a lot of para sports that those with severe disabilities just can't participate in. But certainly from this, if you have no motion and you can't use your limbs and their spasticity, we can find a spot for you in boccia."

'Anybody can succeed'

Leyser said the sport is growing across the country, and there's a need for coaches and referees with the knowledge to officiate.

"We want as many people participating, want awareness that people know that if you do have a disability or severe disability, we have a place for you and we have a sport for you," he said.

Back on the makeshift court, Simone gives it another try, making another excellent shot, despite knowing her opponent is none other than a two-time Paralympian.

Kirk Pennell/CBC News
Kirk Pennell/CBC News

Her opponent Adam Dukovich throws next. He has been playing since 2001 and competed in both the 2008 and 2012 Paralympics.

Dukovich is the chair of the Boccia Canada Athletes' Council and is pleased to see a young athlete interested in trying it.

"It's great because it's going to keep the sport growing," he said.

Kirk Pennell/CBC News
Kirk Pennell/CBC News

When asked what boccia has taught him over the years, his answer is straightforward.

"That anybody can succeed."

Now the next challenge begins, to build the sport on P.E.I., and to find Simone another opponent to play against.

"I think it would be great to have some other kids that she could play with and maybe enter in some competitions as well," said her mom.

"She really did excel at this."

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