Unified Bocce uplifts athletes

To promote inclusivity among general and special education students, Unified Bocce provides an encouraging environment between athletes to develop skills and relationships. The Unified Bocce team uses their support to progress throughout their season.


Leticia Clark

Rolling into regionals…Preparing her move on the court, Unified Bocce team member Mari Knepp gets ready to make her roll.

By creating a space for equality and leadership, Unified Bocce team members work together as they progress through their season and into the postseason for the regional competition on March 7. Unified Bocce coach Leticia Clark said that team one of the program has progressed onto regionals, they are the gold medal champions of Montgomery County bocce. According to Unified advisor Bryan Fagan, bocce got to compete in the state championship in 2017 and they are on the road to States again this year. “Unified Bocce is run through Special Olympics and the goal is to pair our general education students with our special education students so they can play side by side together,” Clark said. “We follow the PIAA rules like every other varsity sport and their goal is to learn the skills during practices and try to forge friendships also.” Clark said that Souderton, along with
Upper Merion is representing Montgomery County at the regional championship on March 7. “There will be eight schools from Eastern Pa. that are all playing together to get a place at Hershey, which is states,” Clark said. General education students apart of the program are buddies to the special education athletes. Junior buddy Avery Caroll feels that the “encouraging” environment of Unified Bocce makes competing “fun and exciting” for all students. “I think the goal for most of the kids is just to have fun and compete as much as they can, not really the whole ‘I need to win’ aspect,” Caroll said. Junior buddy Kate Coll also feels that the “winning isn’t everything” attitude provides a different outlook on Unified Bocce’s goal “I think it’s all about including others and it really gives you a better outlook on sports because it doesn’t always have to be about winning, it can also just be for fun,”
Coll said. The buddy students who participate in Unified Bocce help the special education students as they compete together in matches, but also build connections with each other and form strong friendships. “I think [special education students] having partners within the school that they can go around and see and form friendships and relationships with is really encouraging,” junior buddy Kyla Shaw said. “To have these friends where we can intermix partners and athletes, it’s really helpful to connect within the community in high school.” Fagan feels that the buddies help other students within the school to not “define” classmates by their disabilities but instead “focus on what everybody can do.” “I would say for every single student
in Souderton we are all capable of doing things that we might not think we can do and that’s the biggest thing is just highlighting what we can do,” Fagan said. According to Clark, the buddies not only help students with bocce skills, but provide them with connections when it comes to having people to relate to in high school. “They are helping them to tell them what to do next and forging those friendships and just talking to them like they are regular teenagers,” Clark said.