We received some fantastic entries to our 2022 Short Story Competition! Thank you to everyone who took part and well done to our amazing winner and runners up! As the winner of the competition, Jill receives a £50 Amazon gift card.

On this page you'll find the stories that came 1st, 2nd, and 3rd in the competition. At the bottom of the page you'll also find links to download all the entries.


1st Place: Letting Billy Breathe by Jill Waters

Billy waited nervously, looking at his friend. ‘This is it, Bill,’ said Thomas, ‘This is what we’ve worked for. You can do this. You’re ready.’

Billy didn’t reply. He was thinking back across all those years of living inside his head. He’d had no option, it was the only part of him that worked. In his head he could do anything: play football for England, swim the channel, dance with a girl at the school prom. He could fly a plane, run a marathon, eat his dinner with a knife and fork. In his head…

In reality, the extent of his cerebral palsy meant that he had limited options available. He had spent his first fifteen years unable to communicate his needs and entirely dependent on the support of others. Despite his physical limitations, nothing passed him by. He watched and listened, wondering how everyone around him failed to realise that he understood everything. Even his parents, loving as they were, spoke about him as if he wasn’t there.

When he had been younger, a time when his dad could tuck him under his arm and carry him onto the beach, the assumption had been made that Billy had a learning impairment alongside his more obvious physical ones, and nobody had ever really questioned it. His communication had been limited to crying or laughing and, to the untrained observer, both were very similar. In fairness, one quite often led to the other - what began as a hoot of laughter as one of his carers stubbed their toe would quickly morph into tears of frustration as everyone rushed over to ask him what was wrong, checking his position or the state of his incontinence pad. It was humiliating. So Billy lived inside his head.

Then Thomas arrived.

Thomas was a Sports Coach. He’d worked at a local football club after he left uni, and found he enjoyed the disability sport coaching more than anything else. Something about the freedom and lack of arrogance of some of the children, the ones that most of the other coaches ignored, got under his skin, an itch he needed to scratch. He did some research, visited special needs schools and colleges and had become almost evangelical in his belief that sport could have a positive impact on everyone, regardless of their perceived limitations. Using funding that he found buried in some Paralympics pot, he lent himself out to special schools for blocks of ten weeks, with the aim of involving as many young people as possible. When Billy’s school moved to the top of Thomas’ list, he’d been there a week, organising football, basketball and athletics sessions before he realised there was one class that was yet to make it across to the Sports Hall. Knocking on the door of the classroom, he smiled and approached the teacher. ‘I was wondering when your group would like a sports session with me?’.

‘Oh thanks, but that’s probably not appropriate. You can see, all our students have very complex needs. They have severe physical limitations and, to be honest, they prefer wheelchair dancing in the hall.’ There was a strangled roar from across the room. The teacher turned towards the noise. ‘Billy? What’s wrong? Are you uncomfortable?’ asked the teacher.

Tears of frustration streamed down Billy’s face, as he gurned and tried to shout, ‘Pick me. Save me. I hate bloody wheelchair dancing.’ All anyone could hear was a bellow, almost bovine in its nature. Thomas walked over to the boy in the wheelchair.

‘Billy? Hiya mate, how are you? Seem to be making quite a bit of noise there.’ Turning to the teacher he asked, ‘What’s the best way for me to communicate with him?’

‘Just talk. He’ll soon let you know if he’s happy or not,’ said the teacher, ‘Once you get to know him.’

‘Well I bet you’d like to join in PE, wouldn’t you, Bill. I’ll sort something out, shall I?’

Billy tried to smile, unconvinced that his face was reflecting what he was willing it to do.

The next week, Thomas came back with a ramp and some balls. ‘Okay if I try this with Billy?’ he asked. He didn’t give the staff time to reply, wheeling Billy’s chair to a space in front of a mirror. ‘Okay, Bill, let’s give this a go. All you have to do to start with is let go of the ball. I’ll do the rest.’ Thomas positioned the top of the ramp near Billy’s left hand, and helped him to grasp the ball. Billy was surprised at its weight and texture - soft to touch, yet firm to hold. ‘Okay, Bill, see if you can let go of the ball. Let it roll down the ramp.’ Billy focussed his mind on releasing his grip, but couldn’t do it. His fingers wouldn’t respond, no matter how hard he concentrated. Recognising Billy’s frustration, Thomas gently eased the ball from his grasp and they both watched in the mirror as it travelled away from his wheelchair towards the wall.

‘Brilliant, Billy,’ said Thomas, ‘You’ve just started to learn boccia!’ Excitement made Billy’s back arch and his arms fly out to the side. ‘Guessing you liked that then,’ said the coach, ‘Let’s try again.’

Over the next few weeks, Thomas would bring the boccia balls into Billy’s classroom and together they would practise. It became clear to Thomas that his student would never be able to release the ball independently, so one day he arrived with some strange headgear. Billy thought it resembled an instrument of torture, but trusted Thomas enough to allow him to fasten it onto his head. ‘This will help you release the ball. You just need to push it with the end of the stick. It’s actually called a pointer, but I think it looks more like a stick. Give it a go.’ Thomas wedged the ball into the ramp, and moved it within reach of Billy’s head. He laughed. ‘You look like a Dalek, Bill!’

Billy found controlling his head much easier than the rest of his body, and was soon able to push the ball and make it roll towards the floor. ‘Brilliant, Billy. Think you’re ready for some target practice,’ said Thomas.

Billy had never been so happy. Finally he had something to occupy his thoughts. He found that he instinctively knew what angle the ramp needed to be at for the ball to reach its target, and together they worked out a system of blinks and nods so Thomas could help him change its position. Time after time Billy’s balls reached the jack, and when he started to join other pupils at the lunchtime boccia club, it was obvious that he had real talent, not only for ball placement, but for strategy and tactics too. ‘There’s more to you than meets the eye, mate,’ Thomas would tell him.

Every night Thomas would go home and tell his girlfriend about Billy and how talented he was. ‘I know there’s more to him than everyone seems to realise,’ he would say, ‘You should see the way he weighs up where to put the ramp, how high he wants the ball placed. I tell you, Daisy, he understands the game better than any other of the players I work with. He even beats the staff when they’re needed to make up the numbers. I wish I could help him communicate.’

‘Have you thought about speaking to a Speech and Language Therapist? Didn’t you say he uses a head pointer? Surely there’s a way he could use an iPad with that.’

‘And that,’ said Thomas, kissing her, ‘Is why I love you. Why didn’t I think of that? Genius idea!’

It wasn’t as easy as it sounded. Speech and Language provision had been cut to the bare bones so, in desperation, Thomas had asked if he could borrow another pupil’s iPad that had a communication app. Sally, the teacher from the autism unit, agreed to bring it along one lunchtime for Billy to try. She put it on its most basic setting, and showed Billy how it worked. ‘There’s symbols for each word, Billy. You just need to press on the one you want,’ she told him.

They had to hold the device at the right height and angle but it soon became clear that Billy had a lot to say. Thomas placed the pointer on his head and immediately Billy pressed the smiley face symbol: ‘I’m happy.’

‘Glad to hear that Billy. How about I ask you some simple questions to get to know you better?’

Billy pressed the nodding symbol. ‘Yes,’ he replied, in a strangely feminine voice.

‘Don’t worry, Billy,’ said Sally, ‘I’ll turn you into a boy for next time!’ Billy made a noise that Thomas now knew was him laughing.

From that day on, Billy found his voice. His teachers swallowed their embarrassment at having misjudged his abilities and embraced the technology that allowed him to finally express his views, especially about wheelchair dancing and the good morning song that he disliked so much. His parents, feeling more than a little guilty, bought him his own iPad and arranged private speech and language sessions so he could hone and develop his skills. Billy didn’t resent the time he’d lost. He was simply relieved that, after years of living inside his head, he could now look outside himself and believe he had a future. 

Thomas and Billy worked at boccia every week, continuing long after the coach’s placement had ended. They would talk while they practised and found that they both enjoyed football and Marvel movies. Thomas was surprised to find how much he looked forward to their sessions, and soon regarded Billy as a friend.

Billy was a remarkable boccia player. He was in the regional team and was on Boccia England’s radar, but Thomas realised his interests were becoming wider and more varied. Moving to a more sophisticated communication app revealed extraordinary reading abilities and he would devour books as fast as his mum could download them. He used the internet to play chess with people on the other side of the world, and had a passion for ecology, nagging Thomas to recycle more, and consider an electric car. His brain, seemingly empty for most of his life, became a sponge for every drop of information it could absorb.

And so it was that, after five years of being friends, Thomas was here, supporting Billy as he prepared to leave sixth form, with the qualifications he needed to go to university. ‘Just get through this, mate’ he said, ‘And we can escape to the pub.’ He followed his friend’s self-powered wheelchair onto the stage.

‘Firstly, thanks for voting me your ‘student of the year’,’ Billy said, using his assistive technology, ‘But I wouldn’t be here without this man - Thomas. My best friend who introduced me to the amazing sport of boccia. I spent the first fifteen years of my life in a vacuum, but Thomas opened the stopper and let me breathe. Boccia gave me a sense of purpose and showed other people I was worth paying attention to. When Thomas first put a head pointer on me and held an iPad in front of me, my life was transformed. Without boccia, that wouldn’t have happened. I may never dance with a girl at the prom, or eat my dinner with a knife and fork, but I do have a voice, and I truly believed that would never happen. Thank you all for supporting me. For putting up with my awful jokes. For forgiving me every time I’ve run over your toes getting used to this bloody wheelchair. For valuing me as an equal, and helping me to value myself. Have great lives. I can assure you, I intend to!’

As his fellow students applauded, Billy turned to Thomas, who had tears in his eyes, and asked, ‘Can we go to the pub now?’



2nd: Waiting to be Seated by Joanna Baker-Rogers

Daisy entered the Lecture Theatre. It took her a while to manoeuvre her wheelchair through the door. It always did. She was used to the stares and forced smiles of the people who had to stand to one side and wait for her to pass. She often wondered, “Why did one’s ability to travel only on wheels, set her so far apart from those who had the option of travelling on their own legs?” A 21st Century mystery she had concluded, some time ago, that was not likely to be solved anytime soon.

The sign just inside the door said, “Please, wait here to be seated.” Daisy smiled to herself as obviously she had her own seat and didn’t need to wait for one. But Daisy politely did as the sign instructed and waited. A young, fresh-faced attendant approached her. His name badge read, “Sanjay, Happy to Help!” Daisy started to speak but Sanjay spoke to the couple behind her, seemingly not to have seen her. “Can I see your tickets, please?” said Sanjay to the couple, who were of course, able-bodied and commanded the air space two to three feet above her head.

Sanjay studied the tickets, smiled at the couple, and said, “This way, please.” The trio trotted off to find the seats that were waiting for them. Daisy sighed and looked around. As usual her view was of people’s elbows and backs. Being in a wheelchair gave her a totally different view of the world and to be honest, Daisy had concluded, not a very inspiring one. Clearly, finding her seat was going to take some time. She reflected that making the loo her first stop when she arrived at the venue, had been a wise move.

Sanjay returned and this time Daisy was determined not to be overlooked. She raised her arm and waved her ticket saying, “I’d like to be shown to my seat, please.” Sanjay, who was pleasant enough, smiled and looked at her ticket. “Who is accompanying you?” he asked. “No one” replied Daisy. Sanjay looked stunned and said, “There’s no one here to help you?”  “That is correct” Daisy stated, trying to hide her frustration.  “Oh” came the reply, “That’s very unusual for people like you.” She surmised it would be nice if he had meant people who like rock music, had red hair, or owned a cat (just like she did.) However, now aged 25, she had come to realise that her wheelchair was regarded as her only defining characteristic by the able-bodied population.

“Are you sure this ticket is correct?” asked Sanjay. “It’s just that it’s not for a space in the disabled seating area. It’s for a seat on the stage and that's reserved for the VIPs. You know, the people who are speaking at the Conference." Daisy forced a smile and said, "Yes, I'm sure it's correct. If you could show me to my seat, I'd appreciate it." Sanjay was now clearly perplexed, lost for words, and was starting to turn a shade of crimson. "I'll have to check this with my manager" he said, heading off to the other side of the room. Meanwhile, the queue was starting to grow behind her, into what could only be described as a line of impatient men, in expensive and practically identical bland grey suits, and women in killer heels, nursing very expensive handbags.

Daisy could hear mutterings behind her. "Oh it' a girl in a wheelchair". "Where's the person she's with?" "You'd have thought they would have a separate queue for the disabled." She tried not to listen, and focussed on the returning Sanjay, accompanied by an older, slightly balding man in a jacket and tie. Daisy surmised he was the sort of man that never looked as if he ever wore anything else.

"Good afternoon" said the jacket and tie to Daisy who replied the same. Jacket and tie, whose badge revealed his name as Mr Sharman continued, "I think there must be a mistake with your ticket. You see that seat is reserved for our special guest, the gold medal winning athlete whose speaking about their sporting achievements." Daisy smiled and said, "Yes, that's me." Mr Sharman and Sanjay both looked very uncomfortable. At the same time the noise from the queue behind her was rising in amplitude. There was only ten minutes until the Conference started.

Mr Sharman bent down so he was on Daisy's eye level. Daisy wasn't sure how to feel about this. Was he trying to engage with her or patronise her? “Miss” he began but Daisy interjected, “it’s actually Doctor” and smiled. Mr Sharman turned crimson, forced a wry smile and continued, “Would you mind if we stepped outside into the reception area? It’s just that the event is about to start and there’s a queue forming.” Without waiting for her to answer, he grabbed hold of the wheelchair handles and started to push Daisy out of the Lecture Theatre.

Infringing on her personal space, was one of Daisy’s pet hates. It embodied everything about normalcy that made doing every-day things, for her, so difficult. Anyone who took charge of her wheelchair was doing just that! Now Daisy was the one turning crimson, but not with embarrassment, with rage.

Mr Sharman stopped and walked round the wheelchair to face Daisy. “Look” began Daisy, but she was cut off before she could utter a second word. “Miss, sorry Doctor, you are very welcome to a space in the accessible area. I’m sure you will have a good view of the stage from there.” Suddenly, a voice interjected from behind her, “Daisy! How lovely to see you. I had no idea you’re our VIP guest.” The voice was the host of the event. None other than the legendary actor Mark Talbot, star of TV dramas, Hollywood films, winner of a Tony Award, and tipped to be the next James Bond.  Mark continued, smiling, “Are you waiting out here to make a grand entrance and milk the applause?” Looking at Mr Sharman Mark continued, “So, I see you’ve met our star of Boccia. You do know that Daisy is the Paralympic Boccia Gold medallist and currently ranked world number one in her classification?”

Mr Sharman was now the shade of ­­beetroot and at last, thankfully, rendered silent. “Shall I escort you in?” asked Mark, motioning towards the handles of the wheelchair. Daisy smiled and said, “That would be lovely, Mark, thank you.” Mr Sharman, who was still silent, remained rooted to the spot whilst Mark pushed Daisy into the Lecture Theatre, passing a very perplexed looking Sanjay.

Mark expertly manoeuvred her across the front of the Lecture Theatre and up the ramp to the stage.  He positioned Daisy in her VIP seat and said, “Meet me after in the bar so we can have a proper catch up and a drink.” There was just one minute to go until the event began. Daisy poured herself a glass of water and had a final read of her notes as the lights dimmed, and a hush fell over the audience.

Mark gave the opening address and had the audience immediately at ease with his warm smile and witty repertoire. He then introduced Daisy as the guest of honour, the gold medal Paralympian and world champion Boccia player. The applause was polite as Daisy began to speak. Daisy spoke about her life, her disability, her academic achievements, her sporting titles, her love of Boccia, and her hopes for the future. Her presentation included images of her playing Boccia, winning medals, and with the famous and influential people she had met all over the world.

A standing ovation followed Daisy’s presentation. Mark smiled, clapped enthusiastically, and shouted, “Amazing achievements,” “Well done” and other words of congratulations. Out of the corner of her eye, Daisy saw Mr Sharman and Sanjay clapping, smiling, and nodding their approval. Simultaneously, they both mouth the word “sorry.” Daisy nodded in their direction, to accept their apology and soaked up the applause.

At the end of the conference, Daisy reached for her coat. Her fingers touched a card in her pocket. It was Mr Sharman’s business card that on the back read, “I’d love to try Boccia” with a mobile phone number and the name Sanjay. Daisy smiled and placed the card back in her pocket for safe keeping. She paused for a second and reflected on how much she had to thank Boccia for. Discovering this sport had been so empowering, opened so many doors, made her friends, and enabled her to live the life she had always wanted to. She checked her phone; her social media accounts were trending, and she had so many likes, comments, and shares it would take her all evening to read them.

Daisy wheeled herself off in search of Mark. It took her a while to find him as so many people wanted to talk to her. Daisy finally negotiated her way through a sea of smiling faces, who were now more than happy to stand to one side to let her through. She was ready for that catch up and a drink.



3rd: Everyone's a Winner! by Rachel Bown

Billy, the blue boccia ball, was fed up about a lot of things. Firstly, he was fed up of being squashed at the bottom of a very dark bag. Why did his friends all have to sit on top of him? Why couldn’t they spread out neatly like the gym balls?

He was also fed up by how long he had spent doing nothing. He was made for action. He was ready to roll. But it seemed to Billy that no one ever played with his group. They were just left at the back of the PE cupboard because there were more ‘exciting’ crews to play with. The New Age Kurling stones were always going out to play, and even when the table-tennis table broke, the Table Cricket team had found a temporary ground on a dining table. He hadn’t ever seen any of them actually playing, but he was so bored of hearing them chatting about their matches; who had won, who did what, who made a difference… blah blah blah, when they returned.

Occasionally when they did go for a trip into the hall, Billy didn’t really enjoy it. There didn’t seem to be a plan. Some of the children just threw him and his friends around and some didn’t appear to even try. They just sat in these really weird chairs that had wheels on the side and watched. Eventually one of the children would throw one of his group at another child, they would cry and the balls would be quickly put away. Usually with the grown-up muttering, “These balls are too hard for our pupils, we need to stick to sponge balls.”

Yet another example Billy thought, of how some balls are favoured over others. He and his friends weren’t meant to be lobbed around. Even though we appear to be similar he sighed, we need to be treated differently.

He even felt a divide within his own group. The red balls would taunt him and his blue friends.

“Ha ha! You never get to go first!”

“We are the best colour! No-one wants to be blue!”

And they were right. If they did ever get a chance to play a proper game, the reds did always go first. One of the other balls explained to Billy, “It’s something called a rule, and rules need to be followed.” But Billy didn’t understand what a rule was, or what they all looked like, so how could he follow them? And anyway, where were they going, and why? This thing called a rule just made him feel confused and sad.

And as for Jack, Billy really didn’t like him! Just because he was the only white ball he thought he was special and better than all of them. But the really weird thing was, the more he boasted about how important he was, the closer they all tried to get to him. And if any of them managed to snuggle up to him, the rest of them were super jealous!

Another thing bugging Billy was his group’s name. He was fed up of people not saying his group’s name properly. Boccia is pronounced like ‘gotcha’. It is not bok-key-a or bo-whatever! He felt disrespected when someone couldn’t be bothered to get it right. And some people even said things like “Well it’s a stupid name anyway” when they couldn’t get it right. Billy found that very rude and hurtful. He reasoned, no-one’s name is stupid and you should never be mean just because a name sounds different to yours.

So, all these things were literally getting on top of Billy, and despite hearing one of the bean bags say to another bean bag “It’s ok to not be ok” he didn’t feel he could express how he was feeling. When he had tried to mention some of his worries to Betsy blue ball she just dismissed him, saying, “It’s the same for all of us, so stop moaning.” Rosie red ball had laughed at him. “You’re such a baby Billy, even the pom poms are braver than you and they spend most of their time shaking!!” she had sneered.

But Billy did feel differently to the rest of them. These things did matter to him, and actually he felt pretty sure that some of the others felt the same way too, but they were just too shy or scared to say so. Keeping all his worries inside was just making him feel worse. He wanted someone to listen to him.

Then one day Billy heard a different voice in the PE cupboard. He heard a lady’s voice say, “Right! I need everyone to help please. We need the boccia bag, the hoops, some marker cones and a ramp.”

Yes! She got our name right and she said they needed us! Billy felt better already!

When they got to the hall it was different straight away. They weren’t all unceremoniously dumped out of the bag onto the floor. The lady gently lifted them out one at a time and lined them all up red, blue, red, blue. She didn’t take Jack out of the bag though, which confused Billy a bit, but he thought the nice lady must have a good reason. And then he realised he already thought she was nice. When he looked at the group of children they were all sitting on a bench, with the children in the funny chairs with wheels at the ends.

The lady began by saying, “My name is Rachel. I’m your new PE teacher.” She used a very clear precise voice and as she spoke Billy could see her moving her hands about. This seemed to be helping some of the children to understand and they seemed much less noisy than he remembered on previous visits.

Then she picked up one of his red friends and one of his blue friends. She went along the line of children and asked each of them what their name was. Some of them said their name straight away, some of them took a bit of time, some moved their hands (a bit like she had) some tapped a round thing which seemed to know their name, and sometimes the adult next to them said their name. When they had told Rachel their name in whichever way they could, she placed one of Billy’s friends in each of their hands, on their lap or by their side.

When it was Billy and Rosie’s turn, Billy felt a bit disappointed. They were placed on the lap of one of the children in the funny chairs. Billy sighed, these children didn’t seem keen and he started to feel left out.

But then this really amazing thing happened he made a new friend. He had heard the lady say “a ramp”, but he didn’t know what a ramp was. So, when Reggie the ramp introduced himself and sat in a downward angle from their pupil’s lap Billy felt excited. Reggie explained that he too had been feeling lonely in the PE cupboard because no-one knew who he was or what he could do to help. He was thrilled to be finally understood and to be able to do his job. They had a lovely chat and Billy immediately felt better.

And then the game began. The children were allowed to send Billy and his friends towards the target cones and hoops however they could. They could roll them, they could kick them or they could release them down the ramp. Rachel didn’t mind how they did it, she just wanted them all to have a go.

Billy loved the excitement of rolling down Reggie’s back. He really thought it was funny when he bumped into Richie Red. And on his second go, when he really put some effort in, he even managed to reach Colin the cone. He felt so proud of himself and his pupil seemed proud of him too. He wriggled around in delight in his special chair so much, that Reggie fell off! Reggie didn’t mind though. He said he was made of tough stuff! Billy had thought he had heard one of the adults describe themselves as support staff, but Billy realised he must have misheard them, because they were clearly supporters and did lots of clapping and cheering.

When they had finished playing this target game, Billy felt quite tired. He hadn’t rolled about so much, or so far for ages, but he was keen to stay out and play for longer. He was having such fun and he really felt included.

Then Rachel brought Jack out. She explained that Jack could be used as part of a competitive game and that they would be working towards playing with him over the next few weeks. Billy felt a bit sad for Jack- he was missing out, which didn’t feel very fair. Billy made a point of saying to himself, that when they got back to the PE cupboard he would check in with Jack and make sure he was ok.

When Rachel said it was time to pack up, Billy and his friends, and the children they had been playing with, all seemed disappointed the session was finishing. But Rachel reassured everyone that they would meet again next week for more boccia fun.

When they got back to the PE cupboard and the door had shut, Billy realised he wasn’t at the bottom of the bag. He was mixed in. True to his word he asked Jack if he was ok. Jack said he was and that he had enjoyed listening to everyone learning the skills that would help them play with him soon. He also said he now understood that none of his friends were more or less important than him and that everyone had a special role to roll.

Billy felt something he had never felt or experienced before. He felt valued. He had played a meaningful role and made a difference. For the first time, his colour didn’t matter. His new friend Reggie had listened to him and between them they had experienced success. What he could do had been celebrated, and the really exciting thing was that Rachel had reassured them all that there would be lots more fun and learning to come. She had even told them that they were all winners because they had all tried their best, communicated well and improved! Billy felt happy - he was finally a winner!



Download all the entries below. After the winners, these are listed in no particular order.

First - Letting Billy Breathe by Jill Waters

Second - Waiting to be Seated by Joanna Baker-Rogers

Third - Everyone's a Winner by Rachel Bown

Olivia the Boccia Player by Ava Bogard

How my Love Blossomed on the Boccia Court by Billie-Jo Porter

Boccia and Zombies by Ian Clements

Malika by Kudakwashe Sarah Mushayabasa

To boldly go where no boccia team has gone before! by Laura Probert

When Disability Became the Power! by Lucky Sharma

Boccia, Technology and a Phoenix with many Talents by Susie Herbert

Measure, measure and measure again if still unsure… by Vivienne Lathbury

My Boccia Journey by Roxanne Regan