Simone Collins aims her blue ball at the target and throws it. He lands near the perfect spot. Although she is new to the sport of boccia, she is already quite good at it.
The 11-year-old child lives with mild cerebral palsy and a chromosomal abnormality. She’s been playing boccia at home for a few months now, but today is her very first encounter with 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 mother.
“She can’t participate in something like hockey or even baseball that some of her friends do, so it was great to have an option for her.”
“We can find you a place”
There is no formal boccia program in the province, according to the executive director of ParaSport and Recreation PEI, and that’s what she’s trying to change.
“I think it’s something we can easily implement here in PEI,” said Tracy Stevenson. “I hadn’t realized how important sport was and how important it could be.”
The sport, which resembles pétanque, 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 towards a target and land it as close to the mark as possible.
“If you can’t throw the ball you can definitely hit it and then there are other people who can’t move and any of their limbs and they can actually use a head pointer or a ramp to propel the ball,” said Peter. Leyser, general manager of Boccia Canada.
“There are a lot of parasports that people with severe disabilities just can’t participate in. But certainly from that, if you don’t have movement and you can’t use your limbs and their spasticity, we can help you. find a place in petanque.”
“Anyone can succeed”
Leyser said the sport is growing across the country and there is a need for coaches and referees with the knowledge to officiate.
“We want as many people to participate, want people to know that if you have a disability or a severe disability, we have a place for you and we have a sport for you,” he said.
Back on the makeshift pitch, Simone tries again, making another excellent shot, even though she knows her opponent is none other than a two-time Paralympian.
His opponent Adam Dukovich then throws. He has been playing since 2001 and competed in the 2008 and 2012 Paralympic Games.
Dukovich is the President of Boccia Canada’s Athletes’ Council and is happy to see a young athlete interested in trying him out.
“It’s great because it will continue to grow the sport,” he said.
When asked what boccia has taught him over the years, his answer is simple.
“That anyone can succeed.”
Now the next challenge begins, building the sport on PEI. and find Simone another opponent to play against.
“I think it would be great to have other kids that she could play with and maybe compete with as well,” her mother said.
“She really excelled in that area.”