News & events News Celebrating the stars of boccia! On the evening of Friday 10th December, we celebrated our exceptional players, clubs, volunteers, and supporters at our annual awards ceremony. The 2021 Boccia England Awards were hosted by our CEO, Chris Ratcliffe, and live-streamed on our Facebook page. All shortlisted nominees were invited to join via Zoom and winners were invited to give a short acceptance speech. The evening began with a short address from Boccia England Chair, Mike Walker, who acknowledged that this had been another challenging year for the boccia community and commended all those involved in the “Back to Boccia” effort. You can watch the ceremony back below and via our YouTube channel. The winners and their accompanying nominations were: Club of the Year: Cotswold Crusaders The club has thrived over the past year and since the lifting of Covid-19 restrictions, has harnessed the legacy of the 2020 Paralympic Games to increase the numbers of members attending the club. Anna and Dave’s passion for the sport is shown at their weekly training sessions and through the videos which they have provided for Boccia England, such as the GB Good Luck messages and Back to Boccia Videos. Participation Athlete of the Year: Owen Porter Owen Porter is the most dedicated and loving person to the boccia community. He loves the sport - he tries to remove the stigma around disability and tries to increase awareness of boccia. During the Covid-19 pandemic when boccia was unable to perform, Owen kept practicing at home to improve his overall performance and improving his muscles, as he was unable to do any sport. Therefore Owen has shown his commitment and dedication to the sport when the world was unsure on whether they would get back to doing the sport that they love. Not only has he shown his dedication to the sport, he has achieved an overall improvement of the sport and has gotten on the news to promote the sport and the club that he plays at. Playing boccia has increased his overall confidence and overall performance and he has gained long life friends. I can’t believe the confidence that has grown in Owen since starting boccia. He is thankful that Boccia England provide him the opportunity to compete and play boccia with others. He also loves the opportunity to play the sport with others. I am thankful that Owen has had the opportunity to play boccia, which he enjoys and to increase the awareness of boccia and reduce the stigma around disability, and well as reducing labelling people with disabilities. Performance Athlete of the Year: Lee Maddison Lee athlete has shown an absolute dedication to training, traveling up and down the country to access coach contact sessions, whilst also demonstrating his continued desire for self-improvement. These performance behaviours have contributed to successful performances at the recent Back to Boccia and Boccia UK Challenger events, where Lee produced some excellent performances. Coach of the Year: Bob Lathbury British Blind Sport has hosted numerous "Have a Go Days" around the country since lockdown has eased in 2021, and Bob has travelled from Sheffield to Bristol and everywhere in-between to deliver boccia sessions for our blind and partially sighted participants, as a volunteer. He's inspired many to take up the sport, including an 83 year old gentleman at our Bristol event, and at multiple-sport taster events where we had 5 or 6 sports on offer, boccia came away as a favourite of the participants, from those aged as young as 6 all the way up to Alan, our 83 year old participant. Bob created fun and engaging sessions, adapting to his participants needs, and ensuring that everyone left the session with a greater knowledge of the sport, and of sport in general. He is evidently a highly skilled coach, passionate about the sport and ensuring those with disabilities are included and exciting about playing sport. Whilst Bob volunteered at our taster events to spread boccia, he also coaches elite level athletes, coaching the England Performance Squad, as well as individual coaching for talented boccia players. Sport in general needs more coaches like Bob - passionate, selfless, and skilled. Official of the Year: Richard Evans and Jan Mulligan (joint winners) Richard is a longstanding boccia official both in England and internationally. Whilst on court activity has been limited over the past 12 months, Richard's focus has been in the development of other officials - Richard has supported the UK Workforce Development group with the development of the new Level 1 officials pre reading material, and training content for various webinar sessions including the upcoming new rules training. The webinars have received excellent feedback with referees of all levels benefitting from the opportunity to refresh and upskill. Jan has constantly striven to improve her own officiating skills and support the development of others. On court, she is a firm, diplomatic and exemplary practitioner who makes the time to be available whenever she is needed. Now qualified as an international referee, Jan maintains a critical and analytical approach to both theoretical and practical interpretations of the rules. She is always willing to guide more junior officials through some of the complexities of refereeing, lining and timing with clear and lucid explanations. Jan acts as Head Referee for all inter-club matches in her home county; often combining the role with that of competition consultant, and provider of the that most essential volunteer inducement: cake! Recently, Jan has also worked tirelessly to help re-open the Herne Bay club as well as being the driving force behind the upcoming "Back to Boccia South East" tournament. The Back to Boccia Award: Matt Berry Matt set up an elite boccia club and focused on us getting back to boccia in a safe manner and as soon as possible. It was the first time any of us in the group had done a group training session since the first lockdown. For some it was even the first training venue they had been able to access since lockdown. After a few sessions at our first venue they could no longer offer us a regular slot so Matt travelled all the way back to the South (he lives a fair distance away) to look round and assess other possible venues. The club has a wonderful atmosphere with all athletes attending having a great work ethic whilst enjoying the experience and we all feel safe by the Covid protocols Matt instills. There are athletes in categories BC1-6 which provides a valuable and varied experience for all athletes. Matt plans each session with a well thought out mix of drills, matches and coaching. Matt always sends out a timetable of the day ahead of time so we know what to expect. He also sends copies of the drills he has designed with illustrations to support the descriptions. On the day Matt also provides printouts of the drills so we can have it to hand and puts the schedule up, he also designed and printed some really helpful competition sheets for the Back To Boccia Cup where we could record our scores, coloured balls used etc. which was really helpful for competition reflection. Matt always includes a surprise challenge of the day which is really fun as it is only revealed on the day exactly what it involves and it is great because it provides some fun competitiveness between us all. He has managed to source a number of coaches that come each session which provides a great opportunity for the athletes to learn. Occasionally there are two different Boccia UK athletes that attend too, which again provides a fantastic opportunity for the athletes to meet and play such a high calibre of athletes. During the club day Matt joins in with the drills and does some match play but he also makes sure he spends some time at each court watching us and makes sure that he speaks and gives time to each athlete at some point in the day. He always asks for feedback and if there are any suggestions we have for future days. He also gives support and cheers you on from the sidelines during match play and also gives feedback if there is anything he noticed about how we were playing. While running such a successful club Matt manages to maintain a very high level of success in his own boccia achievements, recently winning Gold in the Back to Boccia Cup. He also recently attended the Boccia UK Challenger too where he did very well. I can honestly say that I really look forward to the club day each month and get so much from it. It was imperative that I got back to group training ASAP after lockdown lifted. The Academy I was assigned to had lost their venue months before and the club I used to train at had sadly gone into liquidation so I had nothing in the pipeline, so Matt's club was a real life-saver and was much needed for me and the other athletes. I can honestly say too that it really prepared me for the Back to Boccia Cup and was vital for my pre-match preparations. Matt is not only a fantastic boccia player but is also a fountain of knowledge and a great leader and supporter. Fundraiser of the Year: Georgina Moore and Peter Langton (joint winners) Georgina recruited three team members to form "The Boccia Bombers" and participate in the summer 2021 Superhero Series challenge to fundraise for Boccia England. Georgina and her carer and boccia coach, Tom, took on a phenomenal challenge and threw boccia balls continuously in Georgina's hallway until they had thrown for 12km...that ended up being 4,000 balls over 8 hours! An incredible effort, especially considering she had battled through injury in her training! Georgina's other carer, Lisa and her husband Jimmy, ran a very impressive 24 miles over 24 hours. Between them the team raised a fantastic £1,240 (including Gift Aid) to support our work. Georgina's fundraising efforts were amazing. She set up a dedicated Facebook page to share progress of her challenge training and drum up support. She ran a raffle, gaining donations of prizes from local businesses, and she even raffled off her beloved signed Bristol Rovers shirt! She also gained publicity for boccia, Boccia England and her challenge by gaining coverage in local news publications and had a tweet about her challenge re-tweeted by Paralympian JJ Chalmers. In November last year, Peter approached Boccia England with what he called "an ambitious fundraising idea" as he wanted to help us fundraise in the wake of the pandemic. Fast forward to April 2021 and The Big Bocciathon - our 24-hour fundraising extravaganza! Peter not only had the idea for the event, and was incredibly helpful in the planning stages, but he also created lots of content for the event and hosted almost all of it (apart from an enforced sleep break!). Peter's segments included an interview with Louis Saunders (GB boccia athlete), Peter and Louis' boccia tips, and a "Boccia of the Day" skit based on Match of the Day where Peter played all the characters involved. He did a fantastic job of hosting, reminding people why we were all here and of the all important ways to donate! Peter was at the heart of so much of the event and we really appreciate all his hard work. Partner of the Year: Youth Sport Trust and the School Games Organiser network YST and the School Games Organiser network continue to deliver a vast amount of boccia to young people within schools through the UK School Games. Over the last year the School Games saw over 33,000 young people take part in boccia which has increased each year. As we adapted to dealing with the disruption presented by Covid, we created a new virtual school competition for last academic year, Virtually Boccia (funded by Boost Charitable Trust). The SGO network helped us to reach young people who were spending time at home and at school. Over 6,400 students aged from 4-19 took part in virtual boccia competitions. One of the main challenges that schools faced was access to their students. Virtually Boccia began in January when most pupils were home-learning due to Covid-19. There were some creative ways of engaging with large groups; the use of Microsoft Teams and Zoom was a popular approach with teachers assigning students into break out rooms together to complete the challenges. Creating opportunities for young people to take part in schools is key for us and the schools and SGO network have picked up and delivered our formats in a fantastic and positive way. Unsung Hero of Boccia: Lauren Kianchehr I am nominating Lauren Kianchehr for the unsung hero of boccia award. Lauren lives and breathes boccia. Her commitment, passion and enthusiasm she has for the sport is clear to see through the many role she holds, including Forum Lead, academy coach and referee. In her role as Lead of the Bristol Boccia Forum, Lauren plays a fundamental role in supporting the growth of boccia in the West of England by excellently bringing together range of clubs, schools and partners in the area for meetings to discuss their delivery. In addition to her role as Boccia Lead, Lauren is also a coach at the Gladiators academy supporting England’s most talented athletes to fulfil their full potential and move up the talent pathway. When she’s not coaching, Lauren is jetting off around the world representing Boccia England on the world stage as an international referee. Lauren truly is an unsung hero of boccia. There were also special mentions for those who were highly commended in their categories: Nottinghamshire Boccia Club were highly commended in the Club of the Year category. Smile Through Sport, Sport for Confidence, and British Blind Sport were all highly commended in the Partner of the Year category. Bob Lathbury and Ian Woodward were both highly commended for Unsung Hero of Boccia. Congratulations to all the winners and nominees!