Starting January of 2019, the first ever in the history of Key West High School, Project Unified Bocce team was launched. It was arranged by Ruth Holland, Unified Champion Schools Director, and David Erhard the head of the English department, who also happens to be the coach for the team.
For someone who is not familiar with “bocce”, it is a game that dates back to the ancient Greeks and Romans. Some people also refer to it as “Italian lawn bowling”. Back then, players didn’t have playing balls designed specifically for bocce, so they used coconuts, melons, carved wood, and bound rags instead. According to the Spruce Magazine, back in the days you could see people of different ages and social backgrounds coming out on Italian streets to play bocce. However, when the game traveled to Britain and France, it became a royal activity, usually played by Emperors and Senators.
After Special Olympics started the bocce program they asked David Erhard to coach the team. Mr Erhard stated “I played bocce before but haven’t had a chance to be on a team, so I decided that coaching a high school team was a good opportunity.” A lot of players don’t have previous experience, while some have been training for a while now.
“I have a person that finished second in state for Special Olympics bocce a couple years ago, and also people that have never thrown a ball until three weeks ago and they scored second in the area competition.” said Erhard.
The team’s first tournament took place on February 22 at Higgs Beach where the team got two firsts and one second.
The team’s main goal for this season is to have fun, and also to get people to understand and work with their teammates. Project Unify partners up people with accommodations with people without accommodations. On Saturday March 9th, the team participated in the Area Games where they competed with 130 athletes from Miami and the Florida Keys. All three teams qualified for the Special Olympics State Tournament in Orlando which be held in May. According to coach Erhard it would be great to win along the way, but most importantly as the Special Olympics Athlete motto states, “Let me win, but if I can not win, let me be brave and attempt”.