Two Locals Continue to Bring Bocce, with a Bonus, to Fairmount – Even During the Winter Months
Founders of the All-American Liberty Leagues Sam Holloschutz and Kyle Fernley jokingly refer to the group as ESPN-8 “The Ocho,” a reference to the comedy movie “Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story.”
In the movie, the network claims it brings the “finest and seldom-seen sports” to viewers. Fernley said the All-American Liberty Leagues wants to fill the same niche market — just within the neighborhood.
“We try to offer all of the fun sports that are out there that people like to play but there’s really no organized group that offers it,” Fernley said.
Fairmount residents Holloschutz and Fernley began their business partnership in the summer with a bocce league at Triangle Park along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. They’ve expanded the league to cornhole games that occur year-round.
During the winter, the league holds bocce games at Urban Saloon (2120 Fairmount Avenue) on Monday nights and cornhole games in the Ukrainian League of Philadelphia’s building (800 N. 23rd Street) on Tuesday nights.
Registration is already open to participate in the sports during spring for the price of $42. Games for each sport will start the week of March 26th. Fernley and Holloschutz said they are also interested in taking the league to University City during the spring.
Like the summer bocce league, there are six weeks of friendly competition-style games and two weeks of elimination-style tournaments to decide the winner.
The two said positive responses from participants is the motivation for expansion, but they’re taking it slowly to ensure all business is done with both of them personally included.
“What we learned from the other leagues were the people who ran it weren’t the people in the league so they maybe weren’t as invested in the perception that they were giving off,” Holloschutz said. “Customer service is number one.”
Recently, the league also partnered with Packaworld, a New Zealand-based company that creates inflatable and portable sports equipment, to bring the game of bocce indoors.
Peter Roberts, Packaworld’s CEO, created the first prototype of an inflatable bocce court. He said the sport has mass appeal — it’s the oldest sport in the world and can be played “when you’re 8 and when you’re 88.”
Roberts said Holloschutz’s and Fernley’s passion about the league stood out to him when they spoke, as well as their goal of bringing people together through sports, an idea that’s been driving Packaworld since it formed in 2013.
“We all know sports, generally speaking, improve lives,” he added. “It provides healthier, more inclusive communities. People can get together. They can socialize… But the ability for people sometimes to play sports and play sports well is in the access to equipment.”
Fernley said players can bounce balls off of the walls of the Packaworld courts, which makes it a completely different game, as opposed to standard courts outlined by cones.
While the bocce courts bring authenticity to the league, the cornhole boards are representative of the league’s namesake, with beer glasses, American flags and eagles imprinted on their fronts and blue and red bags for tossing.
“We really wanted to keep in line with America,” Fernley said. “I think there’s a draw with that. I think people see that name and it’s something that they want to be a part of.”
“That’s why it’s Philly. I mean, the Liberty Bell was born here,” Holloschutz said.