April Club of the Month 2022

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Paul’s Place, based in and around Yate, has been playing boccia since 1995 and is now home to over 20 players who compete across the country at national level.

Boccia pits players against one another as they vie to get their balls closest to the jack, a smaller whiter ball, testing both competitor’s control and accuracy, with each player or team given six chances per end, after which a point is awarded for each ball closer to the jack than an opponent’s.

And Paul’s Place have seen the benefits on and off the court for those supported by the charity.

“What we’ve discovered on the journey is it’s not just about the playing, it’s the things you share,” said Pete Andrews, who founded the boccia club at Paul’s Place.

“The first time we went away and stayed in a hotel, went in the bar and had a pint and a meal - some of them I think only wanted to come to have a drink and a meal! But it became a real friendship.

“So it wasn’t just about the game itself, it was about growing as a group, relying on one another and that friendship went beyond Paul’s Place. 

“They were all helping one another in other aspects of their lives, so they’re a really tight knit group.

“When we greet one another, we’re just family, really, which is the best bit about all this.”

“Paul’s Place is all about inclusivity,” CEO Daniel Cheesman. “It doesn’t matter who you are, what your background is, Paul’s Place is the place for you.”

“Boccia really highlights that and is a fully-inclusive sport that if I can do it – who is not very sporty at all – literally anyone can do it.”

The off-court benefits are also appreciated by the players at Paul’s Place, some of whom, including Luke Jones and Andy Batten, compete in the Super League – the highest level of national boccia in England.

Luke said: “The reason why I like playing boccia is because it allows me to be part of a team and be a team player.

“It’s a really good sport you can play with your friends or family and it’s just a good way to keep it going.”

The beauty of boccia is it can be played by anyone, one of the most inclusive sports in the world, it is easy to pick up as a beginner due to its straightforward nature and easy accessibility.

Andy Batten was one of Paul’s Place’s first-ever players and he echoed Jones’ comments as well as highlighting the fun to be had on-court, including the chance to win medals.

He said: “It’s being able to compete in teams, just the enjoyment of travelling around different areas of the UK doing the competitions; you can build up strengths within teams.

“You get to know who can do what shots, who has got the best positional shots, I love playing it because it teaches you how to communicate with each other and run as a team.”

Boccia has a number of classifications and offers a variety of ways for people of all abilities to play, something highlighted by Batten as he encouraged people to get involved.

“I think the main point of trying to get into it is to come along, have a go, see what your strengths and weaknesses are,” he added.

“There’s different types of balls that you can use, whether they’re soft balls, medium, or hard and you can find out whether you need to play with hard balls or soft balls or a mixture.

“Even if you’re unable to throw a ball, there is a section that you can play in where you’ve got a ramp and an assistant.”

Boccia is just one part of Paul’s Place, which offers a range of services and activities for physically disabled adults.

Art, baking, athletics and archery are also offered, all underpinned by a focus on inclusivity which has helped earn Paul’s Place the Parasport Club of the Month accolade for April.

The club also runs a gym session at the local leisure centre alongside one of its boccia training sessions, with the gym full of accessible equipment so it can be used by anyone.

“The gym is amazing, it’s accessible to loads of people because we have the lift to get up there,” said sport co-ordinator Kerry Lewis, who has been involved with Paul’s Place for 14 years and also highlighted the inclusivity that underpins the club.

“There’s loads of equipment up there that’s really great for our members; seats that come off so wheelchairs can go over and the kit can then be accessed, specific treadmills that are disabled friendly, loads of things that don’t need to be transferred on as well.

“Paul’s Place is inclusive, we’ve got members of all ages, women, men, loads of different disabilities. What’s great about the gym and boccia is that anyone who wants to give it a go can. 

“We’re open to people to come up and give it a go, have a try and see if it suits them and then if they want to continue coming up they can.”