My Journey to the British Boccia Championships
Hi, my name is Alex and I’m pleased to be one of the PACE bloggers.
I’m 20 years old and study Media Studies at Kingston University. I have never been massively into sport. My favourite sport is football and I support Manchester Utd. I get a lot of stick for this, due to the fact I was born, raised and still live in West London, but that’s a subject for another day.
Other then football I wasn’t really interested in sport, partly because I’m in a wheelchair and partly because seeing my fellow students in secondary school sweating and running around like they were stranded in a desert playing rugby, wasn’t really motivating. I first discovered boccia on a Year 8 Sports Day.
When I watched boccia I thought to myself… “this is exactly like the game bowls which old people play on a sunny day in Surrey”. However when I played the game, I soon came to realise there is much more to this paralympic sport.
A couple of years later, I started playing boccia on a regular basis, largely thanks to PACE. PACE allows me and other people to experience the benefits of sport without the pressure of school life. Being at PACE not only gave me the opportunity to play boccia regularly, it was also a chance to meet new people; people I now consider friends.
As PACE grew in popularity, so did boccia. So much so that a boccia squad was developed, headed by Sunil Birdy, our coach. We practised every week with Sunil teaching us about tactics and strategies of the game. With Sunil at the helm, I grew in confidence both in playing boccia and within myself.
Since playing, I’ve entered several Regionals and this was the first time I’ve had the opportunity to participate in competitive sport, which was a great experience. PACE and boccia have also given me opportunities to develop my coaching skills and I have been lucky enough to be invited to the National Young Coaches Academy (NYCA), where, you guessed it, young people interested in sports go to learn about different sports and improve their coaching style. I really enjoyed it! I got the chance to meet many new people, hear stories about their sport and why they are so passionate about it.
What struck me about the Academy was that many of the tips they gave can translate to any sport, not just boccia. I gained lots of valuable experience from the Academy, which I think has added to my boccia game. This was part of the reason why, along with PACE and Sunil, I finished 3rd in the London Regionals, qualifying for the Boccia National Finals this year.
This was my first time at a National competition, so I didn’t know what to expect. They were very, very strict about their rules. You have to be in some sort of green room 15 minutes before your match starts, otherwise you will be disqualified. I actually knew someone there who was disqualified for this reason and thus didn’t qualify out of the group stage. I felt sorry for him but soon found out the reason he was late was because he was too busy eating donuts in his hotel! Safe to say I’m going to be reminding him of that for months to come.
Anyway where was I? Ahh yes, I had three matches in my group and the first one I lost 8-1. It was a close match but I lost it in the third end, where the opponent scored 5 points. To be honest I was a bit down but Sunil reminded me to just relax and have fun, which is very true. If you don’t enjoy something, whatever it is, don’t bother doing it because you won’t do your best. So after that, I relaxed and started to annoy my dad, which is always fun.
For my second match, my opponent was clearly intimidated by coming up against me and didn’t get to the green room in time, so I won 6-0, which is always good, haha! For my third match I was playing an England Talent Squad opponent, who I’ve played before. I knew his weaknesses and exploited them with my strategies to win 13-0. As I won by such a huge margin, I qualified 2nd from my group into the semi-final.
In the semi-final, my opponent was another England Talent Squad athlete, just below the England Squad. The game ended 8-3 to my opponent but I was very happy with my performance, even more so then the 13-0 victory.This is because I used the tactics I worked on with Sunil effectively in the match. I’m sure if I didn’t, I would have lost by a lot more.
I finished 4th in the Nationals and that means I qualify for the Boccia Championships in July. I know it’s a cliché but I never thought I would be in this position a few years ago and it’s all thanks to Sunil, PACE and the athletes I play with, who push me to be the best. It just goes to show that if you put your mind to it, you can achieve anything!