Boccia, Inclusive Sport
Sirisha throws a red ball the size of a grapefruit. It seems like the classic game of bocce, but it’s not. Despite some similarities, this unknown sport of precision is specifically designed for people with cerebral palsy and other disabilities affecting motor skills. "To get the best out of each child, we must strengthen what they do best: play!. So let's play boccia together!" says Enric Romaguera, sports coordinator for people with disabilities in the Vicente Ferrer Foundation (VFF).
Parents of 20 children of the Kuderu Cerebral Palsy Center have gathered to participate in a training conversation. "Who was your first teacher?" asks the sports’ coordinator. "Parents are the first teachers." Therefore, it is important to be aware of their responsibility. "To treat disabilities, speech, physical therapists and caregivers are needed, but above all, love and affection," says Enric.
From here the parents begin to share their experiences, fears and dreams aloud. The most repeated words are unlucky, guilt, sadness, uncertainty and exclusion. They all say things like that because they have had similar experiences. "Even though some of their body parts do not function, your children are still there, it is very important to see that", encourages occupational therapist Susana Lorenzo.
And to prove it, parents and children have played boccia together. We're talking about a more inclusive and accessible sport. It is played individually, in pairs or trios, regardless of age or gender. It is so adaptable that anyone can play it, regardless of their functional limitation. "It is a sport of strength or speed, concentration and strategy," says Guillermo Castro, promoter of the idea. Coming to the foundation Castro realized that the paralysis centers had no physical activities. “They started playing with cricket balls and now they have three complete sets of boccia. Physical Education teachers and caregivers of children are also taught to play the game. "Despite of being a paralympic sport since 1984, I have not found anyone who works with it in India, so in Anantapur they are pioneers" he continues.
The goal is to launch, without leaving the chair, 12 balls, red or blue, as close as possible to a white target ball. "The balls are soft and comfortable for children to get a good grip, yet hard enough to roll down the polished surface of the track” says Guillermo. To launch the balls both hands and feet can be used, or in cases of severe disability, children can receive help from a ramp or an assistant.
A poster with photographs illustrating the routines hangs in the playroom. The caption reads: “Every day we have sensory stimulation, motor skills, do after yoga, clay and various crafts. At 8:00 we go to sleep.” Two months ago boccia was added to these routines and small advances are emerging in the children’s skills. "We are putting up dynamics of motivation. We applaud at the end of each game and they love it. When they are applauding they go from being an average child to feeing the best” says Guillermo enthusiastically.
As some of these small and courageous athletes improve their physical and visual coordination, others increase their autonomy and self-esteem. "Maybe they cannot coach football, but they can play boccia and can better themselves," stresses Guillermo. Sirisha and his colleagues do not know yet, but boccia is an excuse to develop and strengthen their identity through sports. Here, they are all winners.
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