Recently at Special Olympics Vermont we had the opportunity to sit down with board member Bobby Torney, of Raymond James & Associates, Inc. to discuss his experience as a volunteer bocce coach for the Chittenden Program and a Special Olympics Vermont Board member. From our talk we found that it is the contagious nature of the athletes’ pure joy that makes him a passionate volunteer and member of our community.
How did you get involved with Special Olympics Vermont and coaching bocce?
“I’ve been doing it for 6 years now. I got involved through a few friends who had been coaching for 15-20 years. I just came for something to do. I’d grown up being an athlete, and I’d just come back to Vermont. I was looking for something to do that Spring and they invited me to join Bocce. The first day I was there I was completely overwhelmed with how amazing it was. I always tell people it’s all the very best parts of sports. Anyone who’s played sports before – when you accomplish something and you have that great feeling – its like that but every time someone throws a bocce ball. There’s that joy. That immediately hooked me.”
Did you have previous experience playing or coaching bocce?
“I was not previously a bocce player, I had probably played a few times in my life. Over the last few years I’ve gotten to know the game a bit better. It is a lot of fun, there’s a lot more of a tactical side to it than I ever thought there would be. Bocce is something that everyone can understand and really have a lot of fun with. It’s incredibly inclusive and you have a lot of athletes helping out other athletes. It’s pretty amazing to see.”
What does your week look like as a coach?
“Every wednesday the coaches usually get there at 4:30pm, set up the courts for about an hour, then 5-5:30pm all of our athletes start to arrive. We usually have practice based on the weather. If we have some nice days sometimes we’ll go for almost two hours. But about an hour and half to two hours, pick up the courts, and then we always have a coaches get together afterwards. Usually somewhere we can go over coaching, what we can all do better, how the athletes did, and if everyone had fun. And then any kind of nuances we all need to know about to prepare for Summer Games.”
What keeps you coming back?
“I think it’s contagious. Once you come see it, it’s hard to ever leave. It’s something that you get so excited to go to just because of that feeling knowing that the athletes are so excited to be there. They absolutely love it, they look forward to it all week and all year. To see that kind of joy and excitement is really, really fun.”
“For people who haven’t done it, just give it a try. Go to Summer Games, or come with someone who’s involved. Go with them to an event and see it with your own eyes. I think then you’ll immediately want to get involved, especially if you have any kind of history of athletics… its the purest joy in athletics you’ll ever see. And you can see, if you are volunteering and coaching over a season, athletes accomplish something over that season and how proud that makes them. It’s just incredible for everyone involved, the athletes and the volunteers. So just go and give it a shot and you’ll be hooked.”
For more information on becoming a volunteer and/or coaching a Special Olympics sport, CLICK HERE.