Get Active: Boccia club bridges disability divide

PUBLISHED: 13:00 08 July 2015

Having cerebral palsy hasn't stopped Neal being head coach at BAD Jax Boccia club

Having cerebral palsy hasn't stopped Neal being head coach at BAD Jax Boccia club


Inclusion isn’t always possible in sports and all too often disabilities affecting motor skills can mean the precise opposite: exclusion.

Neal takes charge as head coach at the Boccia clubNeal takes charge as head coach at the Boccia club

But Boccia has changed that for many, and now it’s helping Dagenham’s disabled population get active with Tuesday classes at The Park Centre in Rectory Road.

Assistant coach Samuel Afriyie, 20, thinks it’s just what the borough needs.

“It’s a really good sport because anyone can play it,” he said. “It’s good for people who can’t run around but it’s so tactical. It involves a lot of thinking.”

The precision ball sport, which resembles bowls, involves players bowling red or blue sack-like balls towards a jack, with the winner being whoever gets it closest.

Originally designed for people with cerebral palsy, it became an official Paralympic sport in 1984 and is now played in more than 50 countries.

Samuel might be coaching now, but he was taught the game by club member Neal Crowley, 32.

“I’m quite a sporty person anyway – I work for a sport training agency called First Kicks,” he said. “But I’d never tried Boccia so I came down and Neal taught me.”

Neal has cerebral palsy – but that hasn’t stopped him becoming the head coach at the centre, overcoming a condition that interferes with coordination to teach others a sport that requires precision above all else.

And, after watching Neal play and foolishly trying to best his performance, I can testify to his proficiency.

The council-run classes take place every Tuesday from 4.30pm-5.30pm and entry is £2.

Anybody wishing to join BAD Jax Boccia Club should contact Danielle Smith on 020 8227 3376 or 07977 018 832.

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