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Boccia & The English Institute of Sport

Boccia & The English Institute of Sport [174 KB]

Individualised service helps to create a World Class performance environment

Individualised service helps to create a World Class performance environment

Boccia is a sport which is unique to the Paralympics and is played by athletes with disabilities that have a major impact on motor skills. It is a target ball sport belonging to the same family as petanque and bowls and the aim of the game is to get closer to the jack than the opposition.

A team of EIS practitioners has been working with Boccia throughout the last Olympic cycle providing a range of sport science and sport medicine services to help deliver improvements in performance.

Unlike many areas of EIS practice where the services delivered to disabled athletes are broadly the same as those provided to non disabled competitors, much of the service delivered to Boccia is highly specialised and reflects the individual needs of the athletes and the range and severity of the disabilities they face.

Classification leads to bespoke seating solution

One area of ground-breaking work that has been overseen by EIS Physiotherapist, Dawn Ibrahim, over the last Paralympic cycle is a project on classifications and developing a range of seating requirements that can help to maximise performance.

This reflects the fact that establishing the best seating position and wheelchair set-up is critically important in Boccia where postural control and maintaining the best playing position have a big impact on performance.

The classifications divide the athletes into one of four groups.  These reflect their impairments and functional ability and determine the requirements of their seating system and how they need to be set-up to provide the right balance of stability and freedom of movement.

Based on this assessment Dawn worked with a number of external experts to develop a series of bespoke seating systems and wheelchairs, specifically designed to reflect both the particular needs of the athletes and the requirements of playing Boccia.

“I brought in external expertise to assist in the assessment and provision of bespoke seating systems and wheelchairs to ensure we obtained the best solutions available,” explains Dawn.

“Many of the Boccia athletes had been playing in their everyday chairs which had not been adjusted specifically for Boccia. The versatility required and the demands placed on an everyday chair are very different to that of a sport specific chair.”

The new seating systems have a range of specific features that help to optimise stability and provide a steady and secure platform from which the athletes can throw or deliver the ball via a ramp device. These include solid tyres rather than pneumatic, limited adjustable parts restricting areas where ‘give’ can occur, a lack of ‘tilt and space’ and ‘risers’ which everyday chairs use to add movement to the frame.

Other elements include a supportive firm cushion rather than a weight dispersing design, which can help athletes to improve their accuracy, increase their power and reduce fatigue when competing.

Integrated service delivers performance improvements

Working with Dawn are a number of other EIS practitioners covering Strength & Conditioning (S&C), Performance Analysis and Performance Lifestyle, who combine to provide an integrated service to the athletes and coaches aimed at improving all aspects of performance.

The Boccia squad have individualised S&C programmes and prehabilitation regimes to help build strength, improve flexibility or hone their warm up routines and recovery strategies.

Performance Analysis and Biomechanics has been used extensively to understand better and identify the characteristics required for success and this has helped to influence the Talent Identification process.  Performance Lifestyle has helped a number of athletes to combine University studies with the demands of training as an elite athlete and finding the right environment to combine the two in a way that enables them to fulfil their commitments to training and competing.

It has all helped to contribute to a very successful programme.  Nine athletes have qualified for the Paralympic Games, where they hope to repeat their team Gold in Beijing as they compete in all seven medal events.

Matt Hammond, Performance Director, Great Britain Boccia Federation said: “The EIS staff that have been working on the programme have been first class and one of the things we cannot afford to lose into Rio is the performance expertise that now exists in Paralympic Sport through the Institute.  If we are serious about Rio, and we are serious about the investment made in the London cycle providing the springboard, then the EIS has to be a main player in this respect.  The fact that we now have disabled athletes with a clear understanding of a performance environment, and understand the expectations of others in the programme (and consequentially themselves) about what being World Class really means, is an understated legacy achievement for the EIS.”

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