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Changing lives through Boccia

Opportunities for disabled young people to participate in sport can be limited, either because expensive specialist equipment is needed or inclusive sports clubs are few and far between. Boccia is a sport that anyone can participate in however and it's something that Special Needs Jungle would like to see more widely offered in schools, not only for disabled students but for any pupils who want to be involved in competitive sports. Today we're hearing more about the sport from Dan Headley who is the Development Officer for Education at Boccia England.

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What is boccia? 

“It made me feel like Superman without my pants on the outside. I had a voice and people listened to me.” – a player in one of the Boccia England schools programmes.

Boccia is the most inclusive sport you’ll find, and it provides fun for all the family! It can be played by anyone regardless of age, gender, ability or disability, and it’s the only sporting option for many people with severe disabilities or limited motor skills.

Boccia is a target ball sport. From a seated position (and therefore ideal for wheelchair users) players propel balls to land close to a white marker ball. If you’re unable to grasp and propel a ball a ramp can be used. It’s a Paralympic sport with no Olympic equivalent.

Boccia is a game that has been proven to help children develop essential life skills such as responsibility, innovation, and communication. A student with learning disabilities who participated in one of our school boccia programmes said, “It made me feel like Superman without my pants on the outside. I had a voice and people listened to me.”

Boccia England is the charity responsible for the sport in England and we support all levels - from beginners to elite. We believe that through the power and inspiration of boccia, REAL CHANGE can be achieved for those living with a disability.

This video gives a good idea of the impact boccia has on players.

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How can you get involved at the moment?

During the pandemic we’ve developed resources to provide creative ideas for playing boccia at home. You don’t need any specialist equipment to play – part of the fun is finding household items like rolled-up socks to use!

Everyone is welcome to get involved in The Rainbow Cup – a competition league you can play at home. There’s a new challenge released each week with a diagram and a “how to” video, and you can submit your scores online and see where you’ve ranked in our leader boards. Look out for the festive edition, which starts on 21st December. For more fun activities to try at home, you can view all the previous Rainbow Cup challenges on our YouTube channel.

More than 25,000 children play boccia at school every year. Many play as part of the School Games and others through Boccia England’s Skills Award Programme or inter-school competition league. This year our school competition has gone virtual, with 420 schools having signed up to participate in the Virtually Boccia Challenge. If you’d like more information about how your school could get involved in boccia, email me at dheadley@bocciaengland.org.uk

How can you get involved in the future?

There’s a network of boccia clubs across England, and most clubs are open to all ages and abilities. Clubs have ceased boccia activity during the pandemic but will start up again once it is safe to do so.

Boccia England runs a range of competitions and leagues from entry level to elite, so there is something for everyone and our competitions are open to children and adults. We suspended our competition programme in March 2020, but we are looking forward to re-starting competitive boccia again soon.

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Keep updated!

If you’d like to receive the Boccia England monthly email newsletter, visit our website and scroll down to the bottom to complete the sign-up form. 

Chat with us on social media and tell us if you are playing and enjoying the game. We’d love to see your photos too!

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As a charity we’re reliant on support from organisations, companies and individuals to enable us to change lives through boccia. You can find out more on our website, and if you’re interested in supporting our work and would like to have a chat, please contact Cally at fundraising@bocciaengland.org.uk

About the Author

Dan Headley is the Development Officer for Education at Boccia England where he oversees programmes in these settings including the Boccia Skills Award and the Schools (Under 19’s) competitions.

Dan first got involved in boccia in 2010, through a programme at the college he was studying at. This started the journey as an official which led to him qualifying as an international referee in 2015 and more recently being selected as an International Official at the Tokyo Paralympic Games. In addition to his Development Officer role and officiating, Dan is also a performance coach with the England Talent Pathway.

Dan lives in Nottinghamshire and in his spare time enjoys being outdoors exploring new places on walks and runs, identifying places to revisit with his camera and practice photography.

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