Summer nights just got that much more fun in Chagrin Falls, with the Chagrin Valley Bocce League kicking off last week and rooted in camaraderie.
A total of 20 teams, amounting to 200 people, take to the court in River Run Park three times a week, some competitive, others not so much.
“I’m not going to lie,” Chagrin Falls resident Frank Crea, a member of the team “La Bocce Vita,” said with a laugh. “We are a little competitive, but try to have fun with it.
“We are not the group that stomps away mad when we lose a match,” he added. “We congratulate the team and try to get to know others, and hopefully make some friends along the way.”
Chagrin Falls Councilwoman Angie DeBernardo, who coordinates the league and was a key part of its inception, said the goal is to bring the community together in a laid back and fun way.
It was in 2015 that she saw a sign on Solon Road saying “Bocce league forming” and got excited by the concept, she recalled. A league was forming in neighboring Bentleyville, so she worked to recruit people and form one in Chagrin Falls.
“I think we need more opportunities for people in our community to get out and meet each other in a low-key social, relatively non-competitive and fun environment,” Ms. DeBernardo said. “I’m very much a proponent that the world needs more types of that old fashioned fun.”
The court opened in 2017 in River Run Park on Solon Road.
League play began last week and runs three evenings a week, with two games a night, through the end of August.
League members, who span 8 to 80 years old, range in skill levels.
“I try to make it very clear that the point is a friendly social environment,” Ms. DeBernardo said.
Mr. Crea and his wife Beth were drawn to the league as a way to find something to occupy their time in the summer as their children had gone off to college.
“We thought it was a good way to get involved, meet people and have some fun,” he said. He had played as a child so knows the game.
“We have made some connections with people and see them around the village,” Mr. Crea said.
“It seemed like a fun way to get to know your neighbors and get out and do something group-oriented in the summer,” Chagrin Falls resident Deb Mayers, a member of the team called “The Village People,” said.
A teacher who has her summers free, Ms. Mayer said she had never played before, but learned with the league.
“There’s some gentle competition if you will,” she said, “and some back and forth teasing that’s fun.”
Some teams take it more seriously than others, Ms. Mayer added.
“Everyone feels they have to be good,” Ms. DeBernardo said, “but it’s all about good, clean fun.
“The goal is to have fun and meet people,” she said.
Fun is also rooted in some of the team names, including “Harvey Ballbangers,” “The Deboccery” and the “Bentleyville Bombers,” plus more.
Some teams are comprised of family members, while others are made up of neighbors.
There is no resident requirement, but most of the teams reside locally, including Chagrin Falls, Bentleyville, South Russell and Moreland Hills.
The season culminates with a picnic and playoffs, where winning teams get a “coveted T-shirt,” Ms. DeBernardo said.
“It’s always been in good fun,” she continued, “very few problems or unhappy stories.”
The league has also welcomed families with special needs kids who have joined in on the fun.
“Everyone is always incredibly accepting and supportive,” Ms. DeBernardo said.
It’s just all about gathering for a fun summer night, filled with talking and laughter, she added.
“My goal is to make this as low stress as possible,” she said. “We want people to feel they can be involved in something without it being high pressure.
“The pitch I give is, ‘if you can throw ball, you can play bocce.’”