“I wasn’t the most confident person when I first joined the YMCA Boccia Club,” admits 28-year-old Fay. “I didn’t know how good I’d be at a sport I hadn’t played since school and, when I started, I couldn’t throw very far at all.”

Eighteen months later, Fay is a passionate and committed member of the Boccia team, who hates it if she misses a session. Many sporting activities aren’t suitable for her as she has Cerebral Palsy and uses a wheelchair.

“I need 24-hour care and find it frustrating if people treat me differently because I am accompanied by a carer,” she explains. “It’s hard to have to rely on someone else when you are mentally independent.”

“I have a lot of difficulties in my life but when I play Boccia, they all go away.”

YMCA East Surrey’s Boccia Club gives children and adults with additional needs or disabilities an opportunity to take part in a fully accessible Paralympic sport. The club has been accredited with Sport England’s Clubmark and Boccia England Level 2 accreditation is due to be renewed by the end of 2018. A team of YMCA volunteers have also supported the delivery of the Surrey Youth Games since 2002, enabling children and young people with disabilities to represent their boroughs and districts in a countywide sporting event.“I’ve improved so much since the early days,” says Fay, “but I couldn’t have done it without the support of everyone at the Club. Boccia is physically and mentally challenging, as you must plan every move and think of each possible outcome. Throwing the ball is just a tiny part of the game. I’m getting better all the time and I plan to start going to a gym so that I can build up my stamina.”

My mental health has definitely improved since I’ve been coming to the Boccia Club. I enjoy the social side as there’s often someone new joining in and the friendly banter is uplifting. We are all fiercely competitive though!

Katie Gatt is YMCA East Surrey’s Inclusive Sport Coordinator and the club’s Head Coach. “A coach can only help players get so far,” she says, “but Fay takes everything on board, recognises her own faults and tries to rectify them. She’s incredibly determined.”

Fay has been awarded a place for extra training at the Boccia England Academy in Guildford through her hard work and commitment. She aspires to play for England one day.

“Boccia is far more than just a hobby for me. Playing gives me a feeling of control over what I do and without it, everything would seem a little pointless,” says Fay. “I want to take it further and become the best I can be.”

“I was never really a lover of sport before. Now Boccia has made me an athlete.”

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