Bocce Team Embraces Inclusivity at TMHS

By: Tyler Lambing

Cheers could be heard from the opponents teams at the scrimmage with Huntingdon, when the Titans scored a point at the newly formed Bocce match. It is rare for the other team to cheer on their rival, but in Bocce that’s what it is all about, praising everyone for trying and succeeding. During the fall of 2022, the Director of Education, Ms. Danelle Diehl, proposed a new team sport for Tussey Mountain High School, the first ever Bocce ball team.

Diehl approached Mrs. Melissa Madzy about starting the Bocce all team. Madzy states “Ms. Diehl had seen Unified Bocce at other school districts and got one started for Tussey.” There were many different reasons for the creation of this new team. Another coach Mrs. Jessica McGraw says, “We felt it was a perfect opportunity to get students from various backgrounds who may not normally get to interact with one another to work and play together in a sporting environment. Being that Tussey does not have a Bocce team, it just seemed perfect when the idea presented itself.”

Tussey Mountain Junior Landon Jays throws a warm up ball while teammates, Jabin McGraw, Isaiah Sosak, Kyler Coffman, Courtney Aller, Joslynn Jays and Xavier Ricchiuti look on. (Photo Credit: Tyler Lambing)

Many people have joined the new team for many different reasons. Junior Isaiah Sosak states, “I figured it would be a new experience to play with new people and my friends.” While Sophomore Courtney Aller states, “It is something new, and I like doing new things.” 

Like with all other new sports, people have to learn all the rules and how to play. Sosak says, “It was kind of confusing until I started [playing] then it was easy to pick up.” He also says, “The hardest part is rolling [the ball] because the balls are really uneven and full of water.” 

Recently the Bocce team had their first scrimmage against Southern Huntingdon. Sosak says, “I didn’t really know how it would go because I didn’t really know how good the other people were, and then I saw them and was like ‘oh these people are the real deal’.” 

While Madzy says, “I feel the scrimmage went really well. Our team was very focused and had some fantastic rolls. The game was more intense than I expected it to be. It’s always exciting when they’re close in score. It was great to have the support of the students, teachers, and other fans.” Even though most people didn’t know how it would go, there were still some great moments during the scrimmage. Junior Landon Jays states “I like when we got two points for throwing the ball right straight across the [pallino].”

Jordyn Raycroft gives a thumbs up to her fans in the stands before her throw.

Bocce ball is a game much like bowling where two teams of six to eight players go head to head to try and score the most points throughout two rounds and a tiebreaker round if necessary. First, one of the players rolls a yellow ball called the pallino. Then, the rest of the players roll balls as close to the pallino as possible. For every ball that is close to the pallino the team scores a point. The team with the most points at the end of 30 minutes is the winner of that round. 

It is a game mostly about strategy. Madzy states, “We need to work a little more on our strategic play. It’s important to know when to make throws in an attempt to score and when to throw the ball away so that your current points in the frame are not potentially lost.”

Bocce ball is Tussey Mountain’s first sport for people with and without special needs. Sosak states, “People say it’s an advantage but it’s really not. You get to learn from [other teammates] how they learn, and they get to learn from you, and it is just a good overall experience.” 

Tussey Mountain is not the only school in the area that has created a Bocce team. Many different schools have created a team including Southern Huntingdon, Huntingdon, and Mount Union. All of these schools will be competing against each other during this winter Bocce season. Even if the players were on another team they deserve to be recognized for doing the best they can. Spectator Mrs. Amy Snyder says “It was beautiful to see every spectator cheering on every player no matter what team they were on.”

Tussey Mountain’s first United Bocce Ball Team (kneeling) Landon Jays and Xavier Ricchiuti (standing) Courtney Aller, Joslynn Jays, Coach Melissa Madzy, Kyler Coffman, Isaiah Sosak, Jabin McGraw, Jordyn Raydroft, Coach Jessica McGraw and Superintendent Jerry Shoemake

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