What Is Boccia?
Boccia is a court ball disabled sport which has been adapted from the Italian field sport of “Bocce”. Though you may have just been introduced to this sport for the first time, this highly strategic sport has been contested in the Paralympics since 1984, and is currently practiced by over 50 countries. The sport of Boccia is primarily played on indoor courts with small leather balls. There are two teams competing against each other; one team uses red leather balls, and the other team uses blue leather balls. At the beginning of each match, one white, leather ball (called the “Jack” ball) is thrown into the court of play. Then, the objective is for each team to see who can get their own leather Boccia balls closer to the white Jack ball. The team with their Boccia ball(s) the closest at the end of the match wins.
A Bit About Boccia
Boccia is an adaptive sport played by paraplegic and quadriplegic people in wheelchairs. Many of these athletes have severe physical disabilities, including Cerebral Palsy. Depending on the athlete’s level of disability, they are categorized in one of four main Boccia classifications. Their decided classification states who they will compete with in official tournaments. Depending on the competition or tournament, Boccia can be played in singles, doubles, or in teams of three. All teams and competitions are mixed-gender.
Rules and Objectives
Boccia is a game of high strategy and concentration. Each athlete must remain seated during the entirety of the match. Whether in a wheelchair or a normal chair, the entirety of the person and their Boccia equipment (wheelchair, ball holder, stool, ramp assistant, etc.) must be fully inside the designated athlete box.
A full game consists of four separate matches (or ends). If the game is between single teams or doubles (pairs), then there are four ends. If the game is between teams of three, then there are six ends.
A full Boccia match consists of 13 Boccia balls: 6 red, 6 blue, and one 1 white (the Jack ball). We think Handi Life Sport sells some great Boccia Balls.
Guide for Beginners
- To begin, the referee will toss a coin, which determines what color of Boccia ball (red or blue) each team will play with. The winner of the coin toss decides whether to be red or blue. After the team colors are decided, the team who chooses the red Boccia ball will initiate the match by throwing the white Jack Boccia ball into the court.
- In a singles game, each player will alternate throwing the white Jack ball into the court each match, allowing for each team to throw the Jack ball twice. In a game of pairs or teams of three, each player will toss the Jack into the court in turn.
- After the Jack ball is thrown, the athlete who threw the Jack ball will also throw their first colored ball.
- Then the opposite team will toss their first colored ball.
- The team whose ball is furthest from the white Jack ball will toss another ball, and will repeat this step until either all of their balls are thrown, or until one of their balls lands closer to the white Jack ball than the opposing team. If a ball is thrown that lands closer to the white Jack ball than the opposing team, then the opposing team will begin to throw their colored leather balls until all are thrown or until one lands closer than the opposite team again. This will alternate until all 6 balls from each team have been thrown.
How to Win
- After all 13 balls are on the court, the match has ended.
- The referee will now approach the balls that have been thrown and award one point for each ball of the same color that is closest to the white Jack ball. Each point awarded will accumulate throughout all matches to create the final score for each team. The highest score at the end of all the matches in a game wins.
In order to compete as an official Boccia athlete at national or international tournaments, the athlete must be assigned to one of the following four main classifications. These classes are designated by Boccia’s worldwide governing body, Boccia International Sports Federation (BISFed).
Athletes who have been classified as BC1 players are able to throw the ball with their hands or foot. If they choose to use an assistant, he or she must remain outside of the athlete’s playing box and are allowed to help retrieve a ball or adjust a wheelchair upon request.
Athletes classified as BC2 are those who are able throw the ball with their hands without issue. These athletes may not use assistance during competition.
Athletes classified at BC3 have severely limited motor controls and are unable to sufficiently toss the ball onto the court without the use of a Boccia ramp and a ramp assistant (called a ramper). If the athlete chooses to use a ramper, the ramper must have his or her back facing the court for the entirety of the match. The ramper must act only as an extension of the athlete and may not speak or offer any suggestions during gameplay. He or she also cannot perform any action without being told to do so by the athlete.
A BC4 athlete, like the BC3 athlete, has severely limited mobility. However, this classification consists of those who display the ability to throw the ball into the court, and are thus not allowed to use an assistant during competition.
The court design for Boccia is very specific and must be adhered to during an official competition. Along with the court, the player boxes are also very important. Each athlete must remain entirely within their own athlete box for the length of the match.