Spotlight On... Boccia
It’s a Paralympic summer, but don’t just watch the sports, try them!
Parasport's Spotlight On… series offers a quick glimpse into the world of a Paralympic sport – the thoughts, feelings, emotions and behind the scenes details that may be hidden to the outside world.
In the next part of the series, we spoke to Lauren Kianchehr, who is both a coach and a qualified international referee in the sport of Boccia.
Boccia has been a Paralympic event since 1984 and is a precision ball sport, with the aim of the game to move a coloured leather ball close to a target ball, known as the jack.
The sport proved a hit in Tokyo - Lauren told us about her journey and what she loves about the game.
Tell us about how you got into boccia and your progression to where you are today.
“I first got into boccia through school, just to make up the numbers at the club, because why not? It was a bit of a laugh to start with really. But after we played a few community games, we then went and saw the games live at London 2012, as part of a school trip.
“That was amazing because, before then we had never seen it live properly before really.
“Me and another friend who went, had never really considered how we could stay involved as we couldn’t compete, neither of us had physical disabilities.
“We then realised there are still referees and coaches as well. I did a young officials course the following year in 2013, and then helped referee at county level, and eventually national level within six months.
“I did a full season of refereeing ever since. I also started coaching in late 2014.
“I was more nervous of coaching, as you’re impacting somebody else as well, but now I absolutely love it. I even did a coaching & physical education degree at university, and focused mainly on the coaching side.”
Why boccia over other sports?
“It is just so inclusive. The accessibility alone makes it so easy.
“You don’t have to worry about, ‘will I be good at this?’ you can just feel like you fit in straight away.
“There is also so much to the sport than what you see initially. If you want to be constantly surprised, choose boccia.”
What’s the one thing you now know, that you wish you’d known before getting started in the sport?
“It is a bigger sport than I thought, a bigger community I would say.
“We are considered smaller than other sports, but it is great the amount of people you get to meet. I never expected that before.
“We always call ourselves the boccia family, which I think makes the sport that little bit special.
“The relationships I have built through this sport probably stands out the most.”
What’s been your favourite memory in the sport so far?
“I would say seeing Boccia for the first time properly at London 2012. Just to see 12 courts going on at once, before that we had just seen it in our school sports hall.
“I had no idea what to expect but seeing it in the Paralympics and played properly was amazing.
“We just came away buzzing, thinking there is so much more to this sport.
“Also, refereeing the 2018 world championships in Liverpool. To be part of such a big event as an assistant referee, that was a huge moment for me personally, so that has to be up there.”
What's the best thing about boccia?
“It is something everyone can do, regardless of disability, age, ability, whatever literally anyone can play it.
“The nature of the sport is that it has been adapted for people with really complex disabilities, which shows how inclusive it is. Even the most disabled people can thrive within the sport and compete.
“If you just want to pick up a ball and have a go it is very easy.”
What’s something only a boccia participant would know or appreciate?
“I would say the skill required at the top level probably. The level of skill and effort into each shot is incredible.
“When you just watch our sport for the first time, I don’t think you appreciate just how technical and tactical it can be.
“Until you’re really absorbed in it, you don’t understand the skill required at the top of sport.
“The standards these guys set really is incredible.”
What would you say to someone considering trying boccia?
“Just do it!
“I did, and I didn’t really know where it would take me, but I ended up getting caught up in this amazing whirlwind really.
“The community that we have and the family we have is just amazing. I haven’t found that anywhere else, it is a really special group to be a part of.
“Whatever you want to do in the sport, whether you play, referee or coach, or just support, you will be welcomed with open arms and become one of the boccia family really quickly.
“You get sucked in. It’s just brilliant!”
Gain an insight into the world of other Paralympic sports by visiting our Spotlight On… series hub page here.
Want to give boccia a try? Check out our club finder!