GB Boccia player Jacob Thomas gives an insight into the sport, his training and preparations for the CPISRA Boccia World Cup – which begins today – and his hopes for the London 2012 Paralympics.
As soon as I put on my GB kit I’m focused on the task ahead. Boccia may not have the speed of handball or the twists of wheelchair basketball, but the game involves strategy and precision.
I am proud to have been selected to wear the GB kit at the CPISRA (Cerebal Palsy Sports and Recreation Association) Boccia World Cup being held from today until 27 August at the University of Ulster in Belfast. It will give me a chance to test myself against the best players in the world.
If you’re not familiar with Boccia (pronounced “Bot-cha”), the aim is to propel balls on to the court closer to the jack than those of your opponent. The jack ball is white and is thrown first by one of the players. The same player will then send the first coloured ball on to the court. One side plays with red balls and the other with blue. Each side has six balls.
The side whose ball is not closest to the jack throws until they get a ball closest or until they run out of balls. Once all the balls have been thrown, the side with the closest ball to the jack will score one point for each of their balls which is closer to the jack than their opponent’s closest ball. A match consists of four games – known as “ends” – in an individual and pairs game, and six ends in a team match. At the completion of all the ends, the points scored on each end are added together and the opponent or team with the higher total score is the winner.
In Boccia, players are divided into four classifications: BC1, BC2, BC3 and BC4. This depends on their disability and functional ability. I’m classified as a BC3 and play with a ramp.
I’ve been playing Boccia for seven years and have been lucky enough to compete in competitions all around the UK, as well as in Holland and Barcelona. In Belfast I hope to do well enough to earn a good world ranking but I realise that, like any athlete, the key to success is training – and lots of it. I train between eight and 10 hours a week at a local leisure centre and as a team at a monthly weekend camp in Bath, where we train and talk tactics with coaches and support staff.
Each member of the team brings their own strengths to the squad and we are working towards the same goal: to earn a place in the final selection for the most exciting competition of all, the 2012 Paralympic Games. It’s amazing to believe this could be possible.
Find out more about the sport from the GB Boccia Federation and get a taste of playing Boccia on Paralympic broadcaster Channel 4’s online game.