OTTAWA – Boccia is undergoing a youth movement, says the head of Quebec’s provincial association.
José Malo, CEO of the Association Québécoise de sport pour paralytiques cérébraux (AQSPC), says the sport allows youngsters, some with severe disabilities, to have hopes and dreams and perhaps one day even represent their country on one of the biggest international stages. Boccia is a Paralympic Games sport similar to lawn bowls for people with cerebral palsy and other disabilities.
‘’Our goal is to promote boccia as an open door to the world,’’ Malo said. ‘’A lot of these kids, all they know is school and rehab. Boccia becomes a motivation and something to look forward to and allows them to explore other environments.’’
The AQSPC received $15,000 from the Paralympic Sport Development Fund (PSDF) last year which helped fund training camps, equipment, and coaching along with other expenses. The association is a national model for success in boccia and currently has 12 players on the Canadian national team.
Among the activities the AQSPC held in 2018 was an introductory style camp in April for kids as young as six and their parents at two re-adaptation centres in the Montreal area.
A second camp for juniors was held at the Institut national du sport 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.
Through these camps, a database of participants and their helpers was developed to keep them all in the boccia loop.
‘’We couldn’t do all the camps without the PSDF funds,’’ said Malo, whose association also oversees a half-dozen boccia clubs throughout the province. All the clubs are run by volunteers.
‘’There are some other private foundations which contribute but our costs are high, Quebec is a big place. We try to never say no when a club or rehab centre needs help whether it is from Lac St-Jean or Gatineau, we go.’’
Travel costs, accommodation, and meals for the camps were covered by AQSPC thanks in part to the PSDF.
‘’The camps had two goals,’’ said Malo. ‘’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.
‘’Secondly, we want to show the kids that boccia is a real sport and you can go far. At the junior camp on the last day we had real games with real referees.’’
Malo has been involved in Para sport for 30 years and she worked with people with a disability for 10 years before that. To see the sport of boccia grow warms her heart.
‘’When I was young I loved skiing and wanted to be like Nancy Greene,’’ she said. ‘’Now these kids can have dreams come true, because boccia is in the Paralympic Games and we have players who are heroes.
‘’With funding such as from PSDF, we can go far.’’
Applications are now open for the 2019-2020 Paralympic Sport Development Fund, which offers funding amounts between $5,000 and $15,000. For more information or to submit an application for your sport organization or club, please visit Games.Paralympic.ca/funding-opportunities. The application deadline is March 3, 2019.