On Friday 8th December, we hosted the 2023 Boccia England Awards to celebrate the sporting achievements of the boccia community over the 2022/23 season. The awards ceremony was opened by our Chair, Mark Gannon and presented live from our office by CEO Chris Ratcliffe, Head of Partnerships & Communities Kate Moss, and Competition Manager Daniel Smith. Nominees joined the event from across the country via Zoom and the ceremony was live streamed on our YouTube channel for many others within the boccia community to enjoy and join in.

During the 9th annual awards, we rewarded and celebrated the successes of our outstanding athletes, inspirational volunteers, great coaches and officials, high-quality clubs across England, and recognition to the important role which partners play in the development of our sport. 

We announced the nominees, highly commended nominees, and winners of the following seven awards - Coach of the Year, Participation Player of the Year, Club of the Year, Unsung Hero of Boccia, Pathway Player of the Year, Partner of the Year, and Volunteer of the Year. 

Congratulations to all the highly commended nominees and winners of the 2023 Boccia England Awards. Accompanied by a summary of their nomination, they were:

Coach of the Year – Bob Lathbury

Bob was described as someone who always has a lot of time for the athletes he works with across the country to get the best out of them. An athlete has told Boccia England how their game and confidence has increased since working with Bob. He also supports the delivery of boccia with Help for Heroes and CP Teens.

Highly Commended: Gary Jackson – Gary was praised for his hard work, patience, and dedication to everyone involved with Boccia Durham. 

Participation Player of the Year - Richard Mansfield

Richard is a member of Hackney Warriors Boccia Club who until he started boccia sometimes found it hard to keep focused and concentrate for a long period of time. Since starting to play boccia, he has learnt about strategy, how to analyze the match and better communicate with other people. He has become one of the most strategic and tactical players at his club, and many within his team look up to them for encouragement. Through boccia, he has found his purpose and aims to be the best player he can be.

Highly Commended: Laurel Cray - Laurel was described as very determined and took part in Kent's Singles Championships this year. She is a supportive and valued member of her club in Herne Bay, and always strives to improve and promotes boccia to everyone she meets.

Club of the Year – Boccia Durham

They were established in 2011 with the aim of introducing and promoting the game of boccia and to enhance the opportunities of disabled people and their carers and families through training, playing and inclusivity of sport. Since then, the club has gone from strength to strength with new members joining every year through its “open door approach” where anyone can take part in boccia no matter their age, disability, gender, or ethnicity. They provide opportunities for disabled children and adults alike by providing facilities from beginners to elite level, and this year has been a very successful year with one of its members becoming English Champion in his first ever competition. This year the club has also promoted and developed community-based activities working with Help for Heroes, Special Olympics and Smile Through Sport as well as coaching and explaining the game of boccia during sessions at their local college. They are more than just a club for playing boccia, it is a place to meet up, have a drink and make lifetime friendships.

Highly Commended: Defiant Sports – The club have been championing and growing boccia in East Sussex for quite some time now. Over the past year, they have delivered weekly sessions to those with dementia, local nursing home residents, children and young people at SEND schools and run a weekly boccia session in their hub to help players develop skills and enjoy the sport, which are consistently popular.

Unsung Hero of Boccia – Janet Swann

Janet has been described as very welcoming and encouraging to new members of Bexley Dodgers Boccia Club, which she has been the leader of for the past 15 years. Her passion for boccia and dedication and commitment to her club is unwavering, and even though she is now in her mid-70’s, she still does so much for the club. This includes recruiting and organising volunteers, booking accommodation for competitions, driving players to competitions, chairing committee meetings and liaising with Boccia England. She is also heavily involved in the Kent forum to support the development of the sport locally and has helped to get boccia played more widely by working with some local schools in setting up boccia activity. Without them there would be no Bexley Dodgers Boccia Club.

Pathway Player of the Year - Sophie Newnham

Sophie has risen rapidly through the ranks in the past year and finished 2nd at the 2022/23 UK Championships in Swansea.  She also came 2nd in the World Youth games in the individual competition as well as winning Gold in the BC4 pairs at the same event, and has since become a member of the UK Boccia Talent Squad.

Partner of the Year – Mind

Mind have worked with Boccia England over the last year to provide more support of the mental wellbeing of our players and volunteers. They have delivered wellbeing webinars for the boccia community and supported the team in the development of Boccia England’s ‘Your Wellbeing Toolkit’. They have also provided guidance and support in the development of wellbeing related content, such as the videos Boccia England produced this year. Mind have been an advocate of Boccia England’s work in this area and promoted what the sport does and how it does it.

Highly Commended: Nottinghamshire Club for Young People - The not-for-profit organisation hosted Boccia England first Big Boccia Conversation at their Monty Hing Centre in Nottingham earlier inthe year and since then is proving to be a hub for boccia following the event. A series of sessions were delivered there and the centre is hosting a Leaders Award to ensure the activity can be sustained in the longer term.

Volunteer of the Year – Kirsty Bean

Kirsty has been described as an outstanding volunteer and role model within the sport with an encyclopedic knowledge of boccia. In addition to volunteering at not one but two boccia clubs, she is also a key volunteer for Boccia England attending almost every competition to support with set up and referee matches, and last season started coaching at National Talent Development Programme Camps across the country. She has been described as a breath of fresh air whose enthusiasm for the sport rubs off on all.

Highly Commended: Tony Brown – Tony has been volunteering at Blackpool Boccia Club for the past six years and is always on hand to support at the club’s weekly training sessions. He works individually with team members to help their development and brings the fun element to club sessions, always making new members feel welcome within the group.


Congratulations to all the highly commended nominees and winners of the 2023 Boccia England Awards, your accolades were very well deserved!


Thank all the shortlisted nominees who attended the virtual ceremony and everyone who tuned in for making the 2023 Boccia England Awards such an enjoyable and amazing event to finish the year with.