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Bocce team plays teachers in successful and supportive match

The Unified Bocce Team kicked off its season with North Penn' staff members on Tuesday.

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TOWAMENCIN – On Tuesday January 15th, North Penn High School faculty and staff volunteered their time to help North Penn’s very own Bocce team prepare for their upcoming season.

In the first match, Senior Aidan Sullivan and his team beat North Penn High School’s behavior analyst Susan Ahart’s team, Main Chicks, 7-0.

Last school year, the Unified Bocce program was introduced to North Penn High School’s athletic roster. In the first season of its creation, the Bocce team won the State Championship and the designation of being a Unified Banner School. Having already achieved the highest honor possible in the very beginning of the program, the team’s biggest goals for this season are to simply work together and have fun.  

“It really isn’t about winning, it’s about having fun, but I think everyone’s starting to see that you do have to work together as a team to be successful so. . . that’s the goal of Tuesday, communicating and helping each other out.” said bocce coach and physical education teacher Kristen Panaski.

Jurni Jackson
Bocce Ball State Champion, Erin Chi, practices against the NPHS Faculty.

To achieve these goals, Panaski invited North Penn faculty and staff to compete against the team. Teachers, librarians, assistant principals, counselors, the principal, ESC members, and more came out to compete and support.

“It’s basically a practice match. It’s our first time in the gym because we’ve been practicing in the cafeteria, so the flooring [is] different, obviously. It’s wood compared to the tiling that’s in the cafeteria, which will actually change how the ball rolls. It’s a way to learn the rest of the rules and etiquette of the game and to play someone different instead of each other,” added Panaski.

Since all but four members of the team graduated last school year, Panaski aimed to create a great way for the team to learn the ropes in a game environment.

Throughout all of the matches that took place, regardless if it was a win or loss, both bocce members and faculty and staff were so supportive. The amount of sportsmanship radiating from all the participants completely filled the Columbia Gym. Regardless if the player was a part of the bocce team or staff team, everyone cheered and encouraged each other while they played.

Sullivan was introduced to bocce this season when his brother showed interest in the sport. After tagging along with his brother, he is now a partner on the team and has been hooked ever since.

“As soon as practices started it was just a blast and it was just great to spend time with all the athletes and just form friendships with them. . . I’m very excited to see how we all play. We’ve scrimmaged each other in practice, but this is our first outside opponent so I’m excited to see what happens,” said Sullivan.

Junior Erin Chi, a second year bocce athlete who contributed to the win, loves playing because “it’s a fun way to communicate and and it’s a good way to meet new people.”

“I wanted to come play today because I know a lot of the kids from classes and seeing them in the hallways, and I thought it would be a great way to have some fun at the end of the school day,” said inclusion facilitator Kathleen Stadulis. “We have a lot to work towards, that’s for sure.”

The defending State Champions start practicing for this season.

Principal Pete Nicholson also came out to play against the bocce team. “You know, it’s just a great opportunity to get out here and play against the best, the PA State Champs. . . it’s just fun to see kids get involved and be excited about it. Anytime kids are involved and excited to do great things, I love to be around it.”

Throughout the six matches that happened after school, the scores were not the focus. All of the participants fulfilled the goal of working together and were able to get comfortable with the sport ahead of their first game in two weeks on January 29th in the Columbia Gym.

The tournament ended with staff and bocce team members shaking hands, hugging, high fiving, and reminiscing about all of the fun they had.

“Everyone’s happy. That’s probably the best part for me because I want people to have fun and they’re happy. . . you can see how many adults and other students walked in because of all the excitement and fun and energy that was in here, and that’s the coolest part about this whole thing for me,” finished Panaski, content with the result of the tournament.

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Bocce team plays teachers in successful and supportive match