Association Québécoise de sports pour paralytiques cérébraux
Boccia, a sport of focus and precision, was originally designed for people with cerebral palsy but has expanded and now welcomes players with a wide variety of disabilities.
As Quebec’s governing body for boccia, the Association Québécoise de sports pour paralytiques cérébraux (AQSPC) has a keen interest in ensuring up-and coming boccia players of all ability levels are ready for action.
It’s not always easy to develop talent, says José Malo, Executive Director, AQSPC. “We know that for parents who have kids with physical disabilities, it’s expensive. The bottom line is sport is more expensive,” she says. “We try to balance that.”
Through funding received in 2018, the AQSPC focused on growing the game, especially for young children. Teams from the AQSPC traveled to schools, rehabilitation centres and recreational facilities to introduce boccia to new players – and their families – through camps and demonstrations.
“The camps had two goals,” says Malo. ‘’One: show the kids what they can achieve with this sport and at the same time educate the person in charge of them, whether it’s a parent or educator so they can learn how to use boccia in their activities to help them develop.”
The next goal was to promote the sport.
“We want to show the kids that boccia is a real sport. You can go far with this sport,” Malo adds. “Our goal is to promote boccia as an open door on the world.” An introductory style camp was held in April for kids as young as six and their parents at two readaptation centres in the Montreal area. A second camp for juniors was held at the Institut national du sport du Québec located at Olympic Stadium. That’s where the national boccia team trains as well as national team athletes in several Olympic and Paralympic sports such as judo and swimming.
The AQSPC said the goal of these camps is knowledge sharing and obtaining the widest possible reach.
“We cannot do all the camps without that money,” Malo said. “Quebec is big and we try to never say no. If kids want to try a camp in St. Jean or Saguenay - if there are kids anywhere who want to play - we’re going.”
For Malo, the dream of sport is relatable and very personal. “When I was young, Nancy Greene was the top and I wanted to be Nancy Greene,” she said, recalling Canada’s champion alpine skier.
“At the ski centre, there was one run called ‘Nancy Greene.’ My goal was to be able to do that run. When you have a disability, it can be harder to imagine a dream like that.”