About 100 athletes came together for the 2017 Boccia USA Nationals held in Naperville this summer. Boccia is a sport where the athletes try to get their ball as close to the white ball, known as the jack, in order to score points. The sport is part of the Paralympics.
“For me a good boccia player isn’t someone who just gets lucky it’s someone who has skill and sees alleyways between two balls and kind of just knows where to throw the ball,” Nick Houghtaling said.
Charlie: “Patience. You need a lot of patience. And then you need to it’s not just a physical sport it’s also mental. You need to think about every next move that you have and you have to think ahead and of course you also have to be able to aim,” Charlie Lettenberger said.
Boccia has given kids like Nick and Charlie a chance to play sports.
“This is a lot of fun because I get to be a part of a team and play a competitive sport. Most people get to do that but since I have different abilities it’s really nice it gives me this opportunity,” Houghtaling said.
“You can tell people. People are like do you play any sports? Oh wait no you can’t, and you’re like but actually I do,” Lettenberger said.
Both Nick and Charlie are relatively new to the game but this tournament also featured some experienced players like a former national champion in Naperville’s Brigid Mason who has seen a lot because of boccia.
“I get to travel. I get to go around the world so it’s pretty cool,” Mason said.
Her favorite place so far has been China. A.B. Anwar who came from Los Angeles for nationals has also traveled all over the world and Argentina has been his favorite place so far.
“I love the competition all the new people that you meet and you kind of build a relationship and a community around the sport,” Anwar said.
Anwar has won eight national titles and has competed in many competitions and says the Naperville Nationals are top notch.
“I love the set up, the set up is wonderful. It’s one of the first times we’ve had actually two venues so you can see how the sport is growing,” Anwar said.
Boccia is also growing among veterans like Charles Barnes who didn’t think they can play sports again.
“No not at all. Because I had pain. My sight was messed up, disability, stuck in a chair. It’s unbelievable, “ Barnes said.
Barnes took home a gold this year in the pairs competition, while Anwar a silver in individual play and a gold in team play. Meanwhile Mason brought home a silver and a bronze in team play.
One sport bringing a community together.
NCTV17’s Kamen Entchev reports