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Outstanding effort recognised in Boccia England annual awards

On Saturday 5 December, six boccia players and officials as well as a local boccia Club were announced winners of the 2020 Boccia England annual competition.  

The Boccia England Awards 2020 logo

The commitment and determination to play boccia throughout the pandemic was a central theme throughout the Facebook Live ceremony. 

Boccia is an international target ball game played from a seated position and is ideal for wheelchair users. It tests muscle control and accuracy as players propel balls to land close to a white marker ball. Over 54,000 people in England played the game in 2020, and for over half the regular players it is the only sporting option open to them.

Saturday’s award ceremony was held virtually on Zoom and hosted by Boccia England’s CEO Chris Ratcliffe and Competition Manager Sarah Wooding. Boccia England’s Chair, Mike Walker, opened the event before introducing a video showing highlights of the year. This illustrated the many creative ways people had found to stay engaged in the sport throughout 2020, despite being a very difficult year for many in the boccia sporting community.

The awards and special commendations were given to:

  • Club of the Year winner: Greenbank Giants Boccia Club (Liverpool).
  • Coach of the Year winner: Barry Bowden (Hampshire) with a special mention for Mark Dolan.
  • Players' Performance Athlete of the Year winner: Rafael Young (Manchester).
  • The Rainbow Cup Award winner: Gareth Stafford (Conwy, Wales) with a special thank-you to Richard and Natalie Mann.
  • Official of the Year winner: Steve Furber (West Yorkshire).
  • Boccia Lockdown Champion winner: James Pink and the volunteers at Henbury Boccia Club (Bristol) with a special thank-you to Bob and Vivienne Lathbury.
  • Unsung Hero of Boccia Award winner: Shelia Appleton (Kent)

After the ceremony, CEO of Boccia England, Chris Ratcliffe, reflected on the event:

“It has been a privilege to celebrate our outstanding players and volunteers through these Awards.  We have heard about the innovative ways people have found to play boccia at home, and about how important boccia has been for them, particularly in this most unusual year. Boccia truly is a sport that changes lives!”

According to the findings of the Boccia England ‘Big Boccia Survey 2020’, the game contributes significantly to the improvement of players’ mental and physical health. 81% of those who took part in the survey say playing boccia is having a positive impact on their daily lives, and for 76%, participating in the game has improved their confidence. Many speak of the social element of boccia in overcoming loneliness and inactivity.