Boccia is a popular Paralympic sport where athletes must use both muscle and precision to win the game. In a game of boccia athletes can either compete individually, in pairs, or in teams of three. No matter how many people are competing, the rules are the same for all games of boccia.
Boccia can be played recreationally on any court. However, for official competitions, it is played on a gym or tile floor with unique tape markings.
The boccia court is 12.5 meters long and 6 meters wide. There are six 2.5 meter long by 1 meter wide boxes for each of the players to use. There is also a v-line that starts 3 meters from the top of the player boxes on each side and meets 1.5 meters up from the top of the center of the player boxes.
Lastly, five meters down from the top of the center of the court is a 25cm by 25cm cross.
Boccia is played indoors while sitting down either in a chair or a wheelchair. Players must remain in the player boxes while they throw their ball. In boccia, a game is composed of "ends." An end is like a round where each team throws six balls. If two individuals are playing, each athlete will throw six balls. If each team has two or three players they will each throw three or two balls respectively per end.
The two teams are either red or blue depending on who wins the coin toss. This impacts where they throw on the court. The red team athletes will be in boxes 1, 3, or 5 and the blue team will be in boxes 2, 4, or 6 so that the opposing players are next to each other. If there are fewer than six people playing, the athletes will stand as close to the center and work their way out.
The red team gets to propel the jack, the white ball, first. The throw will depend on the players' abilities. It may be rolled, tossed down a ramp, thrown, or pushed with the foot. During this throw, the jack must cross over the v-line in order to be valid.
After the jack has been thrown on the court, the same player will throw the red ball to try to get it to land as close to the white ball as possible. After this, an athlete on the other team will throw a blue ball. The next player to throw will be the team that is farthest from the jack. The referee will decide this. A team may continue to throw all the balls either until they get one closest to the jack or throw all their balls. If a player hits the white ball outside of the court then the white ball is moved to the center of the cross and play resumes. Players can also hit their opponents' balls.
The next end will begin with another player throwing the jack and starting the process over again. A game of boccia goes on until all players have served the jack once. If it's two individuals competing it will go on for four ends so each player will serve the jack twice.
Once each end is finished the referee will tally up the points and shout it out. The team with a ball the closest to the jack will get an additional point for each ball that is closer than their opponent's nearest ball. In the end, the winner is decided by tallying up the total points. Whichever team, pairing, or individual has the highest score, wins.
There are some strategies boccia players can use to help them win the game. The first throwing player may choose to aim the jack for a spot close to their side so it's a harder angle for the opponent. Another tactic is to get in the way of the opponent so it's harder for them to score points. This is more of a defensive strategy but it still helps in the long run.
In the Paralympics there are four different classifications for boccia athletes. BC1 athletes have severe leg, arm, and trunk impairments. BC2 athletes have better arm and trunk abilities than those in BC1 so that they are able to throw the ball both overhand and underhand. BC3 athletes have severe limitations in their trunk and arms and need assistance throwing the ball. They use ramps in order to propel the ball on the court. Lastly, BC4 is for athletes without cerebral impairments who still have limitations with coordination.
If any ball is hit out of bounds it is known as a "dead ball." Any ball that is removed by the referee because of an athlete making a violation is also a dead ball. Additionally, if an athlete decides to not throw a ball or doesn't throw a ball before time expires, these will also be dead balls. Dead balls are taken off the court and put into a container so players know how many balls have been played.
There are 13 balls used in a game of boccia. The six red, six blue balls, and one red ball must be clearly recognizable by their colors. The balls must weigh within 12 grams of 275 grams. The balls must have a circumference within 8 mm of 270 mm. Lastly, there can be no markings, cuts, or stickers on the balls. The head referee gets to make the final decision on if a ball is eligible or not.
If a jack is propelled outside of the playable area, then a different athlete will throw the jack. The new player to throw the jack will be whoever would have thrown the jack in the next end. If they foul as well, the next in line will throw. This keeps going until the jack is within bounds. The player who first threw the jack still throws their ball and the order stays the same for throwing jacks in the next ends.
If the balls are equidistant to the jack, the side that threw last will throw again. The side that throws will then go back and forth until either the balls are no longer an equal distance or a side runs out of balls. Then play resumes as normal. If a match ends tied up, then another end is played. There will be a second coin toss to decide who throws the jack.