Unified Bocce Arrives

by Rebecca Stussman ‘12

Starting with this winter athletic season, Sherwood will be home to a unified bocce team as part of a corollary sports program recently implemented in MCPS. The program, which started in MCPS last year after its success in Baltimore County, is in partnership with Special Olympics and is currently in 14 of 25 MCPS high schools.

The corollary athletics program offers three sports: softball in the spring, track and field in the fall, and bocce in the winter. Softball piloted last spring at five MCPS high schools and unified track and field piloted last fall at seven high schools. This upcoming bocce season will be the first in MCPS and will be at Sherwood and six other high schools.

By the next school year, MCPS plans to have softball, bocce, and track and field programs available in every high school. The corollary athletics program is designed for students with and without disabilities who are interested in playing on a school athletics team but do not have the desire or the skills to play at the JV or varsity levels. Teams will ideally be made up of half students with special needs and half students without special needs.

“It’s a good way for [people] to come together,” said social studies teacher Christine McKeldin, who will be coaching the Bocce team. “I think [clubs that promote inclusion] are very important for young people to be involved in.”

The bocce team will have between eight and 12 players both with and without disabilities. Over its eight-week season, the team will practice twice each week and compete in three matches with other schools, in addition to competing in a playoff season.

The state-wide implementation of corollary programs was sparked by the 2008 Fitness and Athletic Equity Act, which will require Maryland high schools to offer equivalent athletic programs for students with special needs by the 2011-2012 school year.

“The Maryland Fitness and Athletic Equity Act will ensure that all students the have the same right to access athletic opportunities at our schools,” said governor Martin O’Malley, who signed the bill into law. “In Maryland, we are deeply committed to the principles of the Americans with Disabilities Act and ensuring that each individual has the opportunity to make a positive difference in this world.”

At Sherwood, the team is already beginning to assemble, with practices starting on December 14. “It’s exciting,” said McKeldin of the upcoming season and her decision to coach the bocce team. “It’s something new and different, and I was excited to get back into coaching and to reach out to a new population.”

This program will provide an opportunity for athletic involvement to many who have not previously had the chance to participate in school athletics on a competitive level. “[I’ve] coach[ed] middle school football, soccer and basketball, [but I decided to join the bocce team] because I need [to] play,” said freshman Sheiku Koroma, who also adds, with a grin that could only be characterized as devilish, that he is most excited for the play-offs, when Sherwood’s team will face off against other schools to be named the best in county.