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YSAA Unified Bocce Championships

February 8, 2020 by  
Filed under Provincial and Territorial News

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FH Collins, Vanier  win Unified Bocci  Championships!

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Special O holds first unified bocce tourney

The Fieldhouse at the Canada Games Centre got sectioned off last Friday for Special Olympics Yukon’s inaugural High School Unified Bocce Tournament.

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Photo by John Tonin
AIMING FOR THE PALLINO — Porter Creek unified athlete Rosemary Bill takes her shot at the pallino during Special Olympics Yukon’s inaugural High School Unified Bocce Tournament at the Canada Games Centre last Friday.

By John Tonin on January 29, 2020

The Fieldhouse at the Canada Games Centre got sectioned off last Friday for Special Olympics Yukon’s inaugural High School Unified Bocce Tournament.

Winners of the tournament qualified for the 2020 Special Olympics Ontario School Championships in Kingston the first week of June. The final rosters are yet to be finalized but, a team from Vanier and F.H. Collins will be making the trip to represent the territory in two divisions – the divisions are based on ability.

The bocce brought together athletes with and without special needs, said Special Olympics Yukon executive director Serge Michaud.

“This tournament is a unified sport championship,” said Michaud. “It’s the first time we’ve done a unified sport championship in Yukon. Basically, what unified sport is, is having athletes with and without intellectual disabilities playing on the same team and playing against other teams with and without intellectual disabilities.

“As you can imagine, it’s very inclusive. It’s something we’ve wanted to do.”

The concept was hatched in the late ‘80s by Beau Doherty, president of Special Olympics Connecticut.

“He was looking for different ways to make sports more inclusive for Special Olympics athletes,” said Michaud. “In 1991, in Minneapolis, was the first world games that had unified sports.

“It took us a while in Canada to embrace the concept. We were looking here in Yukon specifically to do something different with the schools and we started with high schools.”

Michaud said he hopes the bocce tournament leads to more unified sporting events, but before they are held, Special Olympics Yukon wants to ensure they are doing unified bocce right before expanding.

“Right now, we want to make sure we are doing this right,” said Michaud. “Part of our success in Yukon has been baby steps, really making sure everything we do we do it right.”

Six teams participated in the tournament and Michaud said it allowed them to work the model out.

“We can see how everyone is acting and reacting to the idea of inclusion,” said Michaud. “So far this has been spectacular.”

Michaud said in terms of new sports, there have been conversational talks about adding either basketball and soccer.

“We want to get this bocce thing down first,” said Michaud. “Next year, I can pretty much guarantee there will be another bocce tournament. Then who knows?”

The atmosphere of inclusion was evident on the field, it was noisy and everyone was cheering each other, regardless of school affiliation.

“Everyone is so supportive of each other be it a Special Olympic athlete or Special Olympic partner,” said Michaud.

“For the teachers and EAs that are here, they are blown away.

“Three years ago, this wouldn’t have been a thought that crossed anyone’s mind,” said Michaud. “When you talk about inclusion and having people with and without disabilities working together for a common goal, it’s nothing short of spectacular.”

Michaud said sports have the power to unite people together and that’s what makes them unique and special.

“It’s one thing to cheer on your son or daughter at a competition,” said Michaud. “But if that son or daughter of yours is actually helping others and playing with others in order to help someone else succeed in the sport they love to play, that’s the purest form of sport.”

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