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Parkville bocce players keep the ball rolling

Enthusiasts compete year-round on new indoor court

Created date

March 20th, 2012

To uninitiated passersby, the white PVC plastic pipe arranged in large rectangles on the floor of the Oak Crest conference center appear to be nothing more than plumbing materials. But for two dozen or so bocce enthusiasts who live at the community, those pipes are the components for the new indoor bocce court, allowing them to compete year-round. On any given day during the spring and summer, you ll find players lined up along the outdoor bocce court on the lawn in front of Town Center, says Mickey Carter, Oak Crest wellness manager. We wanted to give people that same opportunity to play throughout the winter, so we designed a temporary indoor court that can easily be assembled and moved if necessary. It takes a little practice to get a feel for the new surface of the court indoors, but most people pick it up pretty quickly. The Parkville Erickson Living community s indoor bocce season began in February and features six teams of four players. Each team competes once a week for six weeks, with a championship tournament on April 26. Similar to lawn bowling, bocce is gaining popularity with more than 25 million enthusiasts in the U.S. today, according to the World Bocce League. The ease of play attracts retirees like those living at Oak Crest to the game. Almost anyone can play bocce safely and easily, says Carter. The game is especially good for older adults because it incorporates light strength training, due to the weight of the ball, which is great for increasing bone density, hand-eye coordination, and joint mobility.

Good old-fashioned fun

Thought to have originated in Egypt, bocce dates back some 7,000 years. Even if you ve never set foot near a bocce court, the concept is simple. Typically, two teams of two to eight players each face off. Each player receives two balls. One team tosses a small ball (pallino) onto the bocce field. Teams aim to get their balls as close to the pallino as possible. The balls thrown closest to the pallino receive points. Players also try to knock their opponents balls away from the pallino. But according to Violet Johnson, accuracy is not the only skill needed for bocce. The key is having control over how hard or soft you roll the ball. It takes a little skill, but also a lot of luck, says Violet, who was introduced to the game after moving to Oak Crest. Sometimes it gets competitive, but it s all in good fun. The first time I picked up the ball I just loved it, and I ve been playing ever since, she says. In 2007, an increase in interest for the game prompted Oak Crest to install an outdoor bocce court. Community member Sam Patterson helped christen the new court. My wife and I had seen bocce before while vacationing in Florida, but we had never played until we moved to Oak Crest, says Sam. I really enjoy it. The great thing about bocce is anybody can learn to play, and the rules are quick to pick up.

Keeping fit, bocce-style

Carter says social sports like bocce are an easy way to stay in shape while having fun and making friends. Any group sport, be it bocce, softball, or shuffleboard, incorporates a team dynamic which not only keeps it fresh and makes it fun but also helps keep you motivated. And the key to seeing results in any exercise program is adherence and consistency. In addition to bocce, since moving to Oak Crest, Sam enjoys other group activities, including shuffleboard and chorus. He also serves on the community s Resident Advisory Council. I tell people all the time I m more active and in better health now than when we first moved here, he says. Oak Crest s outdoor bocce season starts this month and runs through August with the top three teams competing in a championship tournament in September for a trophy and prizes.