Boccia was practised for many years as a leisure activity before being introduced at the New York 1984 Paralympics as a competitive sport. It is one of only two Paralympic sports that do not have an Olympic counterpart, alongside Goalball.
Boccia is a sport for athletes with disabilities that have a major impact on motor skills. Boccia is a target ball sport belonging to the same family as pétanque and bowls. The game of strategy and accuracy was originally designed to be played by people with cerebral palsy. Now, the sport includes athletes with impairments that affect motor skills across four classification groups.
Photo © Disability Sport Wales / Riley Sports Photography. Tom Martin, Disability Sport Wales Boccia Coordinator, lines up a shot at insport Series: Para Sport Festival
There are pathways in boccia that lead towards Paralympic Games and World and European Championships.
For information and guidance in competitive pathways in boccia, please complete the Disability Sport Wales #inspire form.
Classifications for Boccia as competed at World Championships and Paralympic Games
Boccia was originally designed to be played by people with cerebral palsy. Now, the sport includes athletes with impairments that affect motor skills. Boccia is split into four classes, BC1-4, where all players compete in wheelchairs due to severe co-ordination impairment affecting both legs and arms. Eligible impairment types to compete in Boccia are:
- Impaired muscle power
- Impaired passive range of movement
- Limb deficiency
BC1 athletes have severe activity limitations affecting their legs, arms and trunk, and typically dependent on a powered wheelchair.
BC1 athletes have impairment affecting all four limbs and their trunk. An athlete may be classified into BC1 Class if they have restricted or involuntary movement in their arms, severley affecting their range, control and grip, as well as significant impairment in trunk control. They may propel the ball with their hand or foot.
BC1 athletes may have an assistant to steady their chair, or give the ball to the althete when requested.
BC2 players have better trunk and arm function than those in class BC1. The abilities of their arms and hands often allow them to throw the ball overhand and underhand and with a variety of grasps. BC2 players release the ball with their hands, and are not eligible for assistance.
Cerebral and non-cerebral
BC3 class athletes have significant limitations in arm and leg functions, and poor or no trunk control. They are unable to consistently grasp or release the ball and are unable to propel the ball consistently into the field of play and allowed to use a ramp with the help of a Sport Assistant. The Sport Assistant will position the ramp as requested by the player. The athlete will use a pointer, attached to their head, held in their mouth, or held in their hand to release the ball down the ramp.
The BC4 class contains players with non-cerebral impairments that also impact their co-ordination. They may be a wheelchair user, and their impairment likely affects their grip and/or strength.