FOUNDER OF AMERICAN BOCCE CO. IS LIVING THE BOCCE LIFE

Posted by Kris Pfeifer on

Since I have started an instagram account for Bunkybee, I’ve come across some interesting and inspiring people, and CEO of the American Bocce Co. Alex Gara is one of them. He started the American Bocce Co., with Alicia Harvey, and Matt David, in 2015. They now host leagues and events in several different cities, including Detroit, Chicago, and St. Petersburg. Here’s their inspiring and impressive story from their website www.americanbocceco.com.

"We are a grass roots group of social sport entrepreneurs bringing communities, work places, friends, and families together through the timeless sport of bocce ball.
After building bocce ball courts on vacant city lots in Chicago in 2013, we recognized two things about the sport. 1. That it has the incredible power of bringing people together and 2. That in a somewhat contradictory fashion, the sport may have suffered from a stigma of exclusivity. From there, we focused our attention towards community-developing and inclusiveness. It is from that point forward that the sport gained a newfound popularity and resurgence in the social sports market. Because of our unique approach to the game, no experience or skill is necessary. There is certainly a level of competitiveness but for a social sports company, ABC is more social than sport. There is a nearly equal split of men and women in the leagues, and an incredibly high retention rate in teams is the result of opponents becoming friends over time.
As a start-up, we’ve spent most of our early stages testing the limits of just how far bocce can reach. In early 2016, we introduced our unique version of the sport to Carnival Cruise Lines and after a successful on-board training, have outfitted 18 ships across Carnival’s fleet in the U.S. We’ve worked with chapters of Special Olympics all over the world in increasing the popularity of bocce on local levels. We’ve hosted hundreds of corporate events and tournaments. Most importantly, we have introduced social leagues to cities across the U.S. and are committed to bringing bocce ball to your town too!
American Bocce Company is not another social sports league. We’ve witnessed firsthand how this simple sport can have a powerful impact in people’s lives and we want to spread our love for the game. Our approach to the game is high-energy, easy-to-grasp, and above all, inclusive. "


What an awesome way to build community through bocce! I asked Alex to do a Q&A session to find out more about his passion for his pastime of bocce, and he graciously agreed.

Alex, center, and the team at ABC

Q: When and where did you first start playing bocce? 
A: I played here and there as a kid. Mostly with my dad on camping trips and in the occasional backyard match. I enjoyed bocce ball, but in the same way that I enjoyed all forms of competition. In 2013 myself and a group of friends embarked on building a community bocce ball park in Chicago and to be honest, we kind of just randomly landed on bocce ball. However, it was from there that our passion for the sport grew and we all realized how impactful the sport could be if it was made more approachable and nurtured in the right way. 

Q: My family has a bocce set, and we like to play in the yard, down at the Jersey Shore, and have brought it to play while camping with friends. My husband did an accidental back flip over the court back board at a campsite once during an enthusiastic bocce match. But he’s ok! We’ve never played in a league, but we have an active one run by a family in our town, and I hope to sometime give it a try. What’s been one of your favorite venues or locations for playing bocce? 
A: The beauty of the portable equipment that we use is that we can turn any venue into a bocce court. I love rolling on a regulation-sized, well-manicured court but the Packaworld courts allow us to bring the game anywhere and everywhere. With that said, being able to activate bocce ball on cruise ships was a real thrill for me, and believe it or not, the roll was pretty true! 



Q: You host your bocce tournaments and events as teambuilders, league meet ups, and even have portable bocce courts and equipment to make bocce accessible to everyone. It seems to be the everyman/woman’s sport. In your opinion, what makes it such a great activity for all?
A: The social element of the sport stands out first. It allows you to get to know your opponents in a way that other sports don’t. It’s also something we call a lifetime sport, meaning when the knees give out, or you lose a step with hand-eye coordination, you can always still enjoy bocce ball. Lastly, I think it stands out so well at company/corporate events because it’s so easy to learn. We often say, it takes a minute to learn, and a lifetime to master. 

Q: What are some helpful tips that a beginner should know about before taking up bocce ball?
A: When teaching the game, I always tell people it’s a finesse game first. The biggest mistake people make is banging balls out of the way without consideration for where their ball ends up. Leaving your ball right in front of the pallino is almost always position A. But most importantly, have fun. Don’t be afraid to join a social league like ours or some similar clubs are providing. Our goal is to create a social and approachable outlet for players to become introduced to the sport. There are always opportunities to further yourself up the competitive ranks, but the social leagues are about fun first. 

Q: You run a successful company based around bocce. What inspired you to make bocce more than a pastime, but now also a successful business for you?
A: It was the community that came out when we first built the public park that inspired all of this. We didn’t realize how powerful the sport was. We quickly identified that in order to make it a business we needed to allow the sport to be more inclusive and find a way for people to enjoy it year-round and in more urban environments. 



Q: It looks like you and your teams have a lot of fun. What’s a bocce playing moment, that when you think back about, it makes you smile?
A: Oh, we have a blast. In addition to all of the social leagues, we get to activate bocce in really unique new places, work with some fantastic partners, and even grow the sport’s participation within Special Olympics. We have some very ambitious goals with this company, so as much fun as we have in the moment, sometimes we forget to take the time to reflect. But one that really stands out is when we flew out to Miton, DE to compete int he Dogfish Head Bocce Tournament. It was a weekend-long tournament that was considered sacred to get into. We won our way in from a Chicago tourney and the whole weekend kept hearing from the locals how it was nice that we were there but we should be prepared to get our butts kicked. So there were plenty of smiles to go around when we hung in there and won the whole damn thing.

It’s so inspiring to see someone who has passion for his pastime, and is able to share it with others so they can discover the fun and comradery that bocce ball has to offer. Please check out the American Bocce Co. for your next event! Their website is https://americanbocceco.com where you can find fun info about bocce, including the rules of the game. They have cool logo wear too! You can also follow Alex on Instagram @ alexpgara. Bocce photo credits  © American Bocce Co and Alex Gara.

We were not paid or perked by ABC, and neither were they to be a part of this article. I am just grateful to be able to share their story. If you want to get your hands on some bocce wear and gift items by Bunkybee, head on over to the website: www.bunkybee.com and search for bocce in the Recreation Nation Collection. And bocce like a boss! You can find us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/bunkybeetees and on Instagram as bunkybee. Thanks for reading! If you have any suggestions for future posts, please let us know!

 

For some bocce ball related tees and accessories, head over to our bocce section at Bunkybee. And bocce like a boss! You can click on the images below for product links.

xoxo, Kris at Bunkybee 

 

 


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