Home > The impact the Paralympic sport boccia has had on its participants in Sussex

The impact the Paralympic sport boccia has had on its participants in Sussex

Watch our video talking to boccia players in Sussex

The impact the Paralympic sport boccia has had on its participants in Sussex

When Paralympian Louis Saunders played his first game of boccia while at The Angmering School little did he know it would open up a world of opportunities for him.

Yet playing it there, as well as during the Active Sussex School Games and Parallel Youth Games, has seen this now 22-year-old travel the world playing a sport he loves.

“It is amazing,” Louis says. “I am really lucky, I can travel all over the world to play boccia for Great Britain and it is a fantastic experience. 

“You meet so many amazing people and see awesome places so I am very, very lucky.”

You can often find Louis honing his boccia skills.

One such place to do this is at the King Alfred Leisure Centre in Hove, run by Freedom Leisure, on a Tuesday morning.

The morning session is open to anyone to join in and often sees anything from six to 30 people take part.

Jackie Wood, a Healthy Communities coach at Freedom Leisure said: “We have a range of different groups that come.

“The sessions started just with some older people and there is a lovely lady called Abby who comes with her husband and she has multiple sclerosis (MS) and in some ways this is the only thing she does every week so she loves coming.

“We have some people with cerebral palsy who are really quite disabled and again it is lovely they have got a sport they can play. 

“One of these players is nonverbal and can’t move his arms and legs. So it just feels great to be able to give him an opportunity to play a sport. 

“And they play with people from the Grace Eyre charity who have learning difficulties and then an organisation called Team Domenica, which supports young people with learning difficulties.

“The thing about boccia is that anybody can play with anybody. Non-disabled people who just want to play a game sitting down can play with some quote profoundly disabled people and I just love the inclusivity of the sport.”

Brighton and Hove City Council’s Active for Life team initiated the Tuesday morning boccia sessions, approaching Jackie at Freedom Leisure to see whether she would run the sessions. 

“Then we were able to include Grace Eyre, the charity in Brighton and Hove, and they were keen as whilst they play boccia in their facility the idea of coming out and playing with other people in a proper competitive environment appealed to them,” explained Jackie.

Terry Gough is a volunteer who has been coming along with his wife for the last 18 months.

“My wife, who has got MS and is in a wheelchair, wanted to try it because she had seen it in the Paralympics. We were the only people here to start with but we both loved it and we have been coming here every week since then.

“For me it is absolutely essential, as my wife never used to get out at all.  

“With my wife in a wheelchair, we both became very stuck in the house. This now gives us something to look forward to each week. 

“We know every Tuesday morning we get out and we have something to get out for. She looks forward to going to it so that is a positive. 

“With her MS she can’t do much in the way of exercise, but this gets her exercising. 

“It’s not a huge amount of exercise, but she feels her arms are aching at the end of the day, so obviously it is doing her some good. 

“I started playing along with everybody else, but I used to referee football so I found that when numbers got too much I helped Jackie to run the thing and I just enjoy it and enjoy seeing the smile on people’s faces when they are playing.” 

Louis added: “I think socially it is huge. I think that is what is amazing about this group here. You have got people from all sorts of different groups coming together to play the game, getting out of the house and getting involved – it is brilliant. 

“There are so many benefits to boccia and I recommend it for anyone and everyone.”

Freedom Leisure run the dop in boccia classes between  10am – 11.30am and 12pm – 1.30pmon Tuesdays. Find out what other activities you can do with Freedom Leisure here: www.freedom-leisure.co.uk/healthy-communities/brighton-and-hove/our-activies/drop-in-boccia-at-king-alfred/

Boccia England are running some fully funded training courses for people wanting to volunteer with the national governing body.

The training will take place at the K2 Centre Crawley, between 9am-6pm on March 14, 2025. To book, email workforce@bocciaengland.org.uk

The course is a full day (8 hours) practical session with a multiple choice quiz at the end.

After the course, you will be required to attend a local Boccia England competition to put your referee skills to use, where you will be buddied up with an experienced referee until you feel confident to fly solo.

This course will be free if you volunteer your time back at a Boccia England competition.

To find out more, visit www.bocciaengland.org.uk/

Watch our video from our visit to the boccia session at the King Alfred Leisure Centre here.

Other videos you can watch:

How to play boccia: www.youtube.com/watch?v=itPWqcx7xBg

Improving lives through boccia:  www.youtube.com/watch?v=i-qwcwpgnOk&t=98s

Volunteering through Boccia: www.youtube.com/watch?v=_MoPanLzEbs&t=9s

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