The game has changed my prospects in life Peter Langton is a BC2 player from West Sussex. Here he tells us how he was introduced to boccia at school, progressed through Boccia England competitions, and has gone on to be part of the Paris Potential programme and is hoping to be considered for the Paralympics in 2024. Boccia has had a huge impact on Peter's life and in April he supported Boccia England by hosting The Big Bocciathon! Getting started I was introduced to boccia in my first year at my secondary school, Angmering, in 2009, after spending all of my previous years in mainstream schools. Angmering is a mainstream school with various disabled units attached (known as the LNC). I got into boccia after Mr Richards told me about it in PE. I didn’t take Boccia seriously initially as I just found it a fun sport to do in lessons, but after being told about Boccia England and its competitions I got hooked and the rest, as they say, is history! It took me a year to realise that boccia was something worthwhile to stick at – it’s the biggest and most popular sport around in the LNC. When the competitions came around for the first time, it only made me want to get better. I was in the Heathcoat Cup for my entire time at Angmering as an individual. I got to the National Finals with Angmering as a group and came 2nd in 2013. While I was at Angmering, I attended the National Junior Games in Stoke Mandeville every year and loved playing against other players, because at school I would play against the same people each week and it was nice to see other people's style of play and tactics. It was also great to get experience in other sports like polybat, table tennis, zone hockey, and wheelchair football. I only got to a higher standard from my time at Treloars, a residential school and college, with coach Barry Bowden. Since then, I have reached the finals in my first year at the BE Cup, beating two top players in Zoe Robinson and Reshad Saraj. This remains my biggest achievement and biggest moment in the sport. During my time at Treloars, I joined the Scorpions Academy which has a slightly bigger platform within Boccia England that helps to get noticed further. I am now at Solent University and on the Boccia UK Paris Potential pathway programme. My role at Solent Boccia When I started university back in 2018, Solent Sport were in contact with me about starting a proper boccia team there and I was offered the role of captain of Solent Boccia – I jumped at the opportunity! I am still captain as there aren’t many Solent students in the team to take the club forward, and the majority of our members are either former Solent students or from outside the university. I am also the Treasurer, I sort out the team’s social media profiles, and now I’m the Covid-19 officer too. We have sponsorship from Southampton FC’s Saints Disabled Supporter’s Association. It is hard work but totally worth it to give back to the sport and the community after everything boccia has given me so far! As part of the High Performance Academy at Solent University, I have access to their gym facilities and hall booking for training, as well as receiving strength and conditioning and massaging services. What boccia means to me I love the sport as it is fully inclusive and open to people with a big variety of different disabilities. It has enabled me to have a purpose to fulfil throughout my life so far and it has its rewards like going to competitions across the UK, being competitive, meeting new people, catching up with friends, and of course to see myself and others progress, as we all help each other improve over time. The game has changed my prospects in life, as if boccia wasn’t around, what would my life be like instead? Boccia is a sport that includes people of all ages and it helps to know that whatever happens in our personal lives, there is a sport to distract yourself with and to enjoy doing. Even if you are not disabled, there are still plenty of roles available like being a timekeeper, referee, assistant referee and coaching. Those roles will certainly help as a lot of employers look at volunteering as it shows a level of commitment to do job roles unpaid and to see different sports from the inside. During the Coronavirus lockdown When the global coronavirus pandemic hit the UK and went into a full lockdown in March last year, I was sent university work online which helped me to do boccia in between my studies. What also helped was that because we already knew what we had to do for the modules, I could just crack on with the work and finish before the deadlines so boccia could then be getting more attention. I did the first week of ‘The Rainbow Cup’ and then after that I decided to observe my fellow boccia mates do their Rainbow Cup entries over Facebook. I also did my own ‘Toilet Roll Boccia Challenge’, which didn’t take off (I promise it wasn’t to show off how many toilet rolls I had!). After a few weeks of the first lockdown, Boccia England set up a Tuesday Tea Break over Zoom (back then, Zoom wasn’t the most well-known video platform, if you can believe that!) which helped to retain the relationships built with coaches, staff and players as mental health issues were quite high during lockdown. My biggest achievement during this whole pandemic was fundraising with Boccia England through ‘The Big Bocciathon’, which was all my idea! It started off as being like the Children in Need platform but for boccia, and as it gradually grew, the Bocciathon had its own purpose and created its own content! I am very proud of how it went, with me as its AMAZING host (even if I do say so myself!) and we raised over £1,000 to help recoup income lost from the pandemic. It felt good to raise money, not just because small charities need all the help they need at the moment, but also because I’m sure I can speak for others when I say that we felt helpless not doing anything face-to-face and to be able to do something uplifting like this was a great feeling. My hopes for the future My short-term goals are to finish my coaching and development degree in July 2022 (if I don’t go on to do a Masters), and to reach my newly found objective of getting selected in Boccia UK’s Paris Potential pathway later this year. I’m also looking to add new members to the Solent Boccia team with the hope of getting to complete an actual full season of the National League after last season got called null and void because of the pandemic. My future plans after university are to travel when I can before getting a job (alongside boccia of course!). This plan may end up going out the window if I achieve my aim of going to the Paralympics! I would like to thank SportsAid for their funding support that will help go towards paying for hotels, boccia fees, and vehicle petrol, which all goes hand in hand towards my future boccia goals. Alongside my sport dreams, I have an idea of starting up a project of hiring disabled sportspeople who can’t get a job due to their disability, to go into schools, colleges or workplaces and coach people in disabled sports. This may open opportunities for the education of professional companies that hold team-building days around the stigma and stereotypes surrounding disabled people. It will also show young people that it’s ok to talk to other disabled people and not to treat them any differently (this may help make society better!), and grow the range of Paralympic sports available to these groups. I know this will be a good gap to fill in the market as I have been back to my primary school, River Beach (previously known as Connaught Junior), and had a great response from teachers and students when teaching the children boccia and new age kurling. I have no idea at the moment whether it will be a charity or a business but only time will tell. Who knows what the future holds? All I know after the last year and a half is that life is short and just to enjoy life, do whatever makes you happy, and spend time with those who you value the most.