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The Boccia journey of Ken Halliday

Recently we sat down with our Community Sports Educator Ken Halliday to chat about his Boccia journey and the supporting role he played for Daniel Michel and Ashlee McClure at the Rio Paralympics.

Many visitors to our Allambie campus will have seen Ken in his favourite place; seated by a ...

Recently we sat down with our Community Sports Educator Ken Halliday to chat about his Boccia journey and the supporting role he played for Daniel Michel and Ashlee McClure at the Rio Paralympics.

Many visitors to our Allambie campus will have seen Ken in his favourite place; seated by a player’s ramp, quietly waiting for the next direction, often providing guidance and coaching. He is well loved in the Boccia community; his passion for the sport is one of the driving forces behind players – including some of our world champs and Paralympians.

What many don’t know about Ken is that he has been a ramp assistant for more than 16 years, and a part of the Community Access Services team for more than 12 years. Most recently Ken flew to the Rio Paralympics with Daniel and Ashlee, but he has also been a ramp assistant to state and national champs over the years.

Recalling the first time he tried ramp assisting, Ken says, “The first time I sat in front of a Boccia player as a ramp assistant I knew that was what I wanted to do. Some people take breaks from being a ramp assistant, but I never do, I love it,” said Ken.

“It is a passion of mine. I love that Boccia is an activity where the participants have complete control and instruct me; they make the decisions and just about anyone can play.”

For many players with a disability, this is the first sport they can participate in regardless of their level of disability or experience with sport.

“I can’t tell them anything during a game, they have total control. This is a truly inclusive game, giving the reins to the person with the disability,” he said. “I put a lot into being a ramp assistant and coaching, but it’s nothing compared to what I get out of it.”

And when Ken went to Rio, he took his support of Boccia as an integral member of Daniel’s team in preparation for the international competition. “It was a privilege to assist Daniel and Ashlee in their training and be a part of their Paralympic journey. It was great being in the Paralympic village; rubbing shoulders with and watching some amazing athletes who had big challenges to compete at this level.

“In Rio I went into the call room with Daniel, the room you go into before you go on court to play in front of the world. It was good to be with him until he went out to play the game and then to be in the stands watching, that was the greatest thrill. I tell you, the emotions were up there.

“It was also quite an emotional experience watching Daniel and Ashlee compete and take part in the opening and closing ceremonies,” he said.

Although Daniel was knocked out of the competition in the second round, the pair were quick to start making plans for Tokyo.

Ken first became seriously involved in competition Boccia when he teamed up with the talented Ange McReynolds. Together, they competed in tournaments across the country; developing a reputation as the ‘ones to beat’ as she conquered both state and national titles.

“We went all over the country to Brisbane to Perth and Melbourne. Ange kept on winning National titles and to me that was one of the biggest thrills of my life. To be a part of her success was amazing.”

As one of the game’s biggest advocates, Ken’s advice to anyone wanting to give Boccia a try, “give it a go”.

“Boccia requires a lot of skill, tactics and strategy, but it’s also an accessible sport that can be enjoyed both recreationally and internationally. There are so many benefits to playing a sport like Boccia; to know what it’s like to win and to lose, get together with your peers and feel the comradery of your team mates.”

Ken Halliday is a member of Cerebral Palsy Alliance’s Boccia Community Access Service (CAS).

If you are interested in becoming a ramp assistant or would like to give Boccia a go, email pking@cerebralpalsy.org.au