Boccia is a Paralympic sport, and like all sports governed by strict rules. It is a target game played indoors by individuals and pairs or teams, accuracy and tactics matter when there is a match to be won.
Athletes are classified into groups to ensure there is a level playing field based on physical ability, boccia was invented for those who could not take part in any other sport. In the BC3 classification players are unable to throw a ball, instead they use a ramp to propel the ball onto court, facilitated by an assistant. The assistant sits with their back to the game and only moves the ramp as directed, then places the ball on the ramp ready for release. It sounds easy.
To comply with the rules only the player can communicate, the sports assistant acts under direct instruction, a bit like a robot might, only doing what they are told. The athlete is in control of the match, with responsibility for all actions taken on court, deciding on the shots to be taken and which ball to use, but also that all equipment is in the box.
The assistant must not speak or use any form of non-verbal communication, so no eye pointing, gesture, body language, nose twitching, hair flicks or facial expression. The assistant can also violate by not ensuring all equipment is in the playing box, or being the last person to touch the ball as it is released, or worse looking into the field of play during an end. An infringement, however small, means a violation. The result can be retracted balls, penalties being awarded and even yellow cards.
The key to communication success on court is how the athlete instructs the assistant, this has to be quick and precise, without ambiguity. In training every action is practiced, every routine or process is refined, being smooth and efficient without becoming clumsy is critical when every match is timed and every second counts.
It is essential to build and maintain a strong and trusting relationship on and off court. The importance of the partnership is reflected by both the athlete and assistant rightly receiving medals for winning. My thanks go Christie, determined and unflappable, working hard to ensure as a team we give every match our best shot(s).