Here Sophie Coyne, from Merseyside, tells us about the impact playing and volunteering in boccia has had on her life and why she believes the sport is so powerful.

I started playing boccia in 2010 at Clare Mount Specialist Sports College, a special educational needs school which is based in Moreton on the Wirral. We were playing an inter-form competition against other form groups from the school. I was team captain and we were doing pretty well. I had a team member at the other end who had a better angle so I asked if he could play his turn, we won the game 9-4 and ended up being winners of the tournament!

We did this every year up until around 2013 and even then we still played at the schools tournaments at Greenbank Sports Academy.

When I left Clare Mount to go to college, playing boccia kind of faded out of my life because no one in college knew how to play.

In 2018 I started my work placement at Greenbank Sports Academy in Liverpool and James Dixon told me of their boccia club. I used to play with them every now and again and watch them practise in the sports hall. I also became an official around that time because Steve Sullivan introduced me to the Heathcoat Cup and Boccia England. 

It wasn’t until 2020 that I got classified as a BC8 player (learning disability category). I needed to get classified so I could participate in competitions. For a college assignment we had to do two sports, so I wanted boccia to be the individual one, as I am good at it.

Boccia showed me what inclusion is and helped me to help others become part of their own boccia clubs. Since I have started playing boccia, I have made new friends and become more part of society in my own way. It also takes my mind off the thought of having a disability because I am with others who face the same barrier.

Boccia isn’t just a sport, it helped me learn that for some with more severe learning disabilities, this may be one of the few sports that is accessible for them. Boccia is accessible to everyone, with or without a disability and that’s why I love it so much.

One day in my future career, I aim to make sport accessible for everyone and remove every barrier possible so that sport can change many more lives for the better.

I also believe sport and boccia had a massive impact on my mental health. I was helping a student not so long ago with their survey on disability sport and they asked me if playing sport had contributed to my good mental health. I said yes because sport has changed my life and it can do the same for many others.