Students, community support sought for Hampton’s only home Unified Bocce match

Wednesday, January 22, 2020 | 12:01 AM

The sole home game for Hampton’s Unified Bocce team, made up of 10 students of all abilities, will be held Feb. 7 against Norwin High School and the community is encouraged to come and support the team.

The match will be held at the Hampton High School gym at 3 p.m. The sport requires an equal number of students with disabilities and students without disabilities on a team, according to Sarah Rassau, the team’s coach and a Hampton teacher.

The team’s previous home game drew a big crowd.

“Last year, the student section that showed up was amazing,” said Hampton senior Emily Berkebile, a member of the student council who shared the information at a recent January school board meeting.

She said the students are hoping for another big crowd.

Unified bocce is treated like any other interscholastic sport in a school district, with teams playing against other teams from other schools. Unified bocce requires players to roll four balls with the goal of getting closest to an object ball, also known as a palina, according to Mike Bovino, a senior adviser at Special Olympics Pennsylvania

Bocce provides people with special needs the opportunity to have social contact, develop physically and to gain self-confidence, according to the Special Olympics website.

Currently, the team is comprised of 10 players, from grades nine through 12, half of which are general education students and half are special education students, said Rassau. She is also co-sponsor of the school’s Best Buddies program, along with Hampton teacher Jen Lavella.

Best Buddies is a high school program, pairing up students with disabilities to peers without disabilities to socialize and do activities together, according to Berkebile.

There are four bocce games this year with the first on Jan. 23 at Montour High School, at Hampton on Feb. 7, at Franklin Regional on Feb. 12, and at Fox Chapel Area on Feb. 19, according to Rassau.

“Everyone is welcome to attend the competition. We would like to have the stands packed. The more the merrier. All community members, in addition to students, are encouraged to come and support our team,” said Rassau, who is in her second year of coaching the bocce team.

Special Olympics Pennsylvania started providing the program more than five years ago, and other school districts in Allegheny County have joined in since then, as well as ones in Beaver County, according to Bovino.

High School Principal Dr. Marguerite Imbarlina said she wants to see a big crowd again, including people from Hampton Township.

“We’re trying to pack it like a basketball game. We’re trying to get more community members to come,” she said.