Sarah DeLucas (second from left) with the rest of the DC Bocce League board members, John Groth, Rachael Preston, and Gautam Chowdhry (left to right). Photograph by Anne Paterson
The DC Bocce League is one of the fastest growing sports leagues inside the Beltway. It has grown from 50 people in its first year to 5,000 registered members last year. Sarah DeLucas is one of the league's founders, but unlike the other three board members, DeLucas “lives, breathes, and eats” bocce, as she’s the league’s only full-time employee. She talks about the history and future of the league and what sets it apart from the rest.
How did the DC Bocce League come about? I’ve been living in the city for over ten years and back then, pretty much the only sports league around was kickball or you could play softball with your company at work. I did both of those. The other people that founded the league with me also played on my kickball team for a couple of seasons. But we were like, “Eh, this is okay, but we could do it better.”
So one of our friends was like, “Why don’t we try bocce?” He had grown up playing bocce. It’s not that hard, it’s an easy game, and anybody can play it. We went out and looked at park spaces and found Garfield Park right by the Capitol South metro and talked to some bars in the area and sought out Pour House. Our first season we had 50 people register and it just grew organically. We did absolutely no advertising whatsoever. It was all through word of mouth.
What is it about the game that makes it one of the most popular leagues in the city? Bocce is a game that anyone can play. It’s not like playing football where there’s a gazillion rules. Playing the game is very leisurely. It doesn’t matter if you’re a man or a woman—anyone can play the game. And it’s very social.
What’s different about this league than other typical bocce leagues around the country? The thing with in the world of bocce is that almost everywhere else in the country, they have bocce clubs and they are composed of, generally speaking, older, Italian men. There is this national bocce tournament in California and the people that play are just men. Women cannot play. And I just want to say, “You gotta move up with the times.” There is not one reason why women can’t participate in bocce.
So DC Bocce is unique in that that’s not really not our demographic. The average age is 29.
What is your role in the league? Last September after Labor Day I quit my job to work full time for the bocce league. I wake up and come to Bocce Headquarters. My job is do strategic work like signing up for new opportunities for partnership. I do a lot of partnership networking things. I work almost hand in hand with our beer sponsor, Peroni, which is distributed through the Miller Brewing Company. And I have bars, nine bars that I have to manage our relationships with and working with bars with challenging. We run events and I’m in charge of planning and budgeting and doing all the purchasing for the events.
Working full-time for a bocce league isn’t something a lot of people aspire to do when they grow up. I’ve come to realization that I’d like to continue to like to make this my full-time job. I like to tell everybody I’m living the dream. I’m working for my company, I’m working for myself. Even if this doesn’t work out for whatever reason—if we decide we don’t want to do this anymore or we fail miserably—I’ll have a wealth of experience under my belt of running my company. It’s kind of small scale in the scheme of things. I feel like I eat, sleep, and breathe bocce, but at the end of the day it’s really rewarding.
What does the future of the league look like? Right now we are about to incorporate ourselves as Major League Bocce. We do business in DC, but that’s only good geographically inside the Beltway and we have plans to move outside of the Beltway. We’re launching Major League Bocce this fall to branch out in other geographic regions.