The Joy of Bocce Weekly
The FREE weekly Ezine for bocce aficionados everywhere
Volume #1, Issue #5    February 4, 2002
Publisher: Mario Pagnoni   Copyright 2002 The Joy of Bocce

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In This Issue

* The Skills of the Game - Hitting
* Bocce & Special Olympics World Games - Part I
* Bocce Ball Retriever - Error Correction
* Arthritis/Joint Pain Slowing Your Game?
* Prohawk Measures
* Chattanooga Tournament

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The Skills of the Game - Hitting

Most of the recreational players I meet and play with have the same "flaw" in their game.  They can point pretty well, but are weak at hitting.  When I say "hit" I mean trying to roll a ball that will knock an opponent's ball out of position.  Sometimes the other team places a ball so close to the object ball that it is easier to hit away than to "outlag."  I hear a lot of "Well, I'm not very good at that, so I'll try to get close instead."  To be a complete player you have to be adept at all facets of the game.  Major league baseball teams look for the "multi-tooled player" - the one who can throw, run, field, hit, and  hit for power. Top flight bocce calls for the deft touch of pointing, the skillful precision of hitting, and the cerebral aspect that tells us when to do which.  The first step for recreational players is to go ahead and try to hit when the situation warrants it.  You won't get any better at hitting by avoiding it.  Consider this...a very shrewd basketball coach once told me that  "A good shooter is a bad shooter who kept shooting."  Keep hitting.

Spend a little time practicing hitting before you play each week.  Start by putting your target pretty close and don't move it back until you can consistently hit it at that short range. You decide what consistency level is right for you (70%, 80%, greater, less?).  If your goal is 90% hitting accuracy, don't move the target back until you can hit it 9 times out of 10.  Good basketball free throw shooters sometimes end practice by making ten foul shots in a roll.  You might think that ten straight is not so many for a skilled player, but the shooter in this drill counts only swishes.  Balls that go in, after first hitting the backboard, rim or flange don't count. You could adapt this strategy to practice hitting so that hits only count if they drive the target toward the backboard.  Any glancing blow that sends the target veering to the left or right doesn't count.  For even more challenging accuracy, use the pallino as target rather than a bocce ball.

You can be a "standing hitter," which is a player who doesn't use a run-up approach.  You could employ a three-, four-, or five-step (or more) run-up delivery and stop before you reach the foul line.  Or you could release the ball before you cross the foul line and then continue your movement toward the target after that release.  This latter style is the one employed by top players.  They maintain that the body's continual movement toward the target after the release promotes greater accuracy.  Finally, you should consider holding the ball palm down versus palm up.  Experienced players claim that the palm down release is a more natural motion for the arm, and results in fewer errant rolls. The important thing is to use the exact same stance, approach, and delivery every time. You must develop consistency behind the foul line before you'll see consistent results down by the object ball.

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Bocce & Special Olympics World Games - Part I

Everybody loves the Special Olympics World Games...I mean, what's not to love? Aren't the games a positive experience for all those athletes with mental and physical disabilities?  Don't the events showcase the successes of participants with mental retardation - a condition that, years ago, relegated them to desolate lives in dehumanizing institutions?

Eunice Shriver Kennedy started the Special Olympics movement in 1968, and these World Games have blossomed into one of the largest sporting events on the planet. The last World Games in 1999 in North Carolina featured appearances by Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver.  Billy Crystal served as M.C. for the gala opening ceremonies. Maya Angelou inspired with a reading, NBA star Grant Hill addressed the athletes, Stevie Wonder entertained and Kathy Ireland, well, she was just Kathy Ireland, and that was enough.

Host cities love the competition because it can pump $50 million into the local economy. Big name sponsors see Special Olympics as worthwhile too - the North Carolina landscape was dotted with golden arches, Coke bottles, and M&M's. These and other corporate sponsors like Bank America and General Motors helped foot the estimated $35 million bill for the event. Everybody knows that these companies are trying to better position themselves in the World Market, but the general sentiment is "bless them, anyway" (besides, all that money is "chump change" compared to the Superbowl and the Olympics.

All those volunteers believe in the Games, too. Thirty-five thousand of them converged on the Raleigh Durham area and parked cars, controlled crowds, housed athletes, fed everyone, and worked tirelessly to make the event a success. It made me snicker at the thought of our Massachusetts high school programs that make community service a graduation requirement - as if you could mandate caring.
 
And for many athletes from developing countries, the World Games represent the experience of a lifetime. In some third world countries retardation is believed to be a curse and children so inflicted might be abandoned or even poisoned by their parents. At the World Games many get a chance to see how the "other half" lives, experiencing for the first time living conditions of the hi-tech world. For some, their first encounter with an escalator was at the Raleigh Durham Airport, and they boarded with much trepidation. We heard of athletes who washed their hands and face and then drank the water, and others who consumed the unfinished juice in glasses left on the breakfast table. Athletes from tropical zones asked that the air conditioning be turned off. And others even thought they were to draw their water from the pond behind their host family's home.

Despite all the obvious benefits I was surprised to find another side to the Special Olympics story. I was in North Carolina's Triangle area to officiate the bocce competition. Long a passion of mine, bocce is one of the fastest growing sports in Special Olympics, since anyone who can roll a ball can play. As many athletes from track and field and other more physically demanding sports age, they make the transition to bocce.

It was at the bocce venue on the grounds of the picturesque Fearrington Village that we first heard the controversy. A newspaper headline read "Some advocates for mainstreaming assail the games." Some think the Special Olympics movement is counter-productive to the efforts for mainstreaming, instead perpetuating the stereotype of the mentally retarded as poor unfortunates deserving of pity. And since the event is almost exclusively for the retarded, it only undermines the work being done toward inclusion. These critics maintain that even the adjective "special" is condescending. I read the article with great interest...it hadn't occurred to me that there might even be debate about the benefits of The Games. Nancy Weiss is executive director of the Baltimore based TASH, "an international association of people with disabilities...fighting for a society in which inclusion for all people in all aspects of society is the norm." Weiss maintains that "all that (Special Olympics) time and energy and fundraising would do more good if put into integrated activities." Labeling Special Olympics a segregated event, Weiss and TASH continue to hammer home the same, consistent message, promoting inclusive recreational activities.

Other critics point out that we should be rewarding the academic achievements as well as the athletic. We ought to recognize the efforts made at surmounting what are for many the daunting tasks of developing independence, learning to cook, keep house, and manage money. And many parents reject the term special - what future opportunities might be lost once their child is labelled as special needs? The more you segregate, the more you foster separate and unequal. There are Special Boys Scout troops in some areas. Why wouldn't these boys just be part of the existing scout troops?  "That way," maintains Weiss, "they'd have friends and role models with and without disabilities."

There is a whole lot of hugging going on at Special Olympics events, and some see this as demeaning to the athletes. College students and other volunteers, they allege, are recruited as "professional huggers." It's pretty obvious that no one should get in the habit of hugging strangers, but that is exactly what often takes place as volunteers and athletes embrace at the conclusion of each competition.

Special Olympics creates many divisions so that athletes are competing against others of nearly the same skill level. This makes for many gold, silver, and bronze medal winners. One newspaper headline read "These athletes are so good, they all walk away with medals." The true nature of competition is that it creates more losers than winners. All those Division I college basketball teams want to be NCAA champs, but only 64 make the tournament, and only one survives March Madness to earn the bragging rights. Isn't the Special Olympics medal situation a kind of inflation? If so many are awarded, what is the value of a medal? Isn't this demeaning to the athletes? Shouldn't they be able to compete and be afforded the dignity of taking the risk of coming up empty?

{Part II - Conclusion next week}
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Bocce Ball Retriever
{I misspelled Gene Youtsey's name last week and am running this short article again, with my apology  - I've left the photos up on my site for another week  too}

Gene Youtsey and Don Allen are big time bocce fans from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.  They play on the beach at low tide, tossing the pallino out in any direction and getting their daily exercise walking the course through tidal pools and sand bars. Gene, partial to bocce over all other sports says it "beats the hell out of golf - don't cost nothin."  With a wink, he's quick to add that "Our groundskeeper comes in twice a day."  His partner Don wants outsiders to understand that their beach bocce play is not without conflict.  "We play under duress that helps us when we travel to tournaments elsewhere."  The problem, he maintains, is that beach play requires great powers of concentration, because "...there are good looking women in bikinis everywhere."  

Gene has a nagging backache making it difficult for him to bend over and pick up his bocce balls.  Together with Don he developed a unique "bocce ball retriever."  The device has what looks like a Tupperware bowl attached to a telescoping rod that can be adjusted to the user's height.  With a little practice you can get a deft little wrist snap going, and pick up your bocce ball without bending at all.  I first met this dynamic duo in Las Vegas where I was the games organizer for a big money tournament put on by the World Bocce Association and the Golden Nugget Casino.  I've put a few photos up on my site - some on the tournament - some on the bocce ball retriever.  Click here to view photos. The South Carolina duo retails the device for $29.95 plus shipping.  Email Gene at gyoutsey@sc.rr.com.
 
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Arthritis or Joint Problems Slowing Your Bocce Game?

Check out this product which I found so helpful that I became a manufacturer's rep for it.  Click the link below to read about a very powerful antioxidant that reduces inflammation in the joints.  People everywhere have had good results for the symptoms of arthritis, tendonitis, bursitis, asthma, allergies and a laundry list of illnesses making the product sound like a snake oil that's "good for anything that ails you."  The reason is that this powerful substance composed of natural substances like extracts from grape seed, red wine, and pine bark, does two major things in the body.  These antioxidants improve circulation and boost immunity.  As you can probably imagine, so many of today's maladies can be traced to poor circulation and low immunity.  My son James, pretty expert in herbal remedies and holistic medicine, turned me on to the product almost 6 years ago.  "I think it will help your arthritic old basketball knees," he reasoned.  Within a week of faithfully using the product, I was going up and down stairs without pain.  I took a serious look at the company, liked what I saw, and became a manufacturer's rep for the many of products they market.
$64.95 for a three-month supply. Click here to check out Antioxidant
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Prohawk Measures becoming a bestseller

I made a trial order to check out how my readers would like these nifty measuring devices.  They're going so well that I am considering taking on the distributorship for the United States and Canada.  Check them out.  They are neat to have on hand for games and make the best gift I can imagine for a bocce lover (other than my book, of course!).  Click Prohawk Measures to check out the two that I recommend.  They retail for $19.95 plus shipping.

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Not too early to register for Chattanooga, Tennessee Tourney

This is my  favorite tournament.  I'd love to meet you there.  It is a cultural and gourmet treat as much as it is a bocce event.  Come and meet Dr. Charles "Tony"Portera, the man behind the Arts District of Chattanooga.  He brought together the concepts of bocce, outdoor sculpture garden, art gallery, glass blowing studio, and bed & breakfast.

The official tournament dates are Friday, August 2 through Sunday, August 4.  Call Rico Daniele at 1-800-BOCCE54 for more information or click on Chattanooga Tourney for more details and photos of the "most scenic court in the South."  

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Other Outdoor Games series still available

Interested in horseshoes, croquet, badminton, volleyball, archery?  Make great, inexpensive gifts for outdoor games players (Fathers' Day is coming up soon!). Click Outdoor Games to order any of these well crafted booklets by author Steven Boga.  Under $10.00 each.