Clubs Went to the City of Discovery

Lewis RefereeingThe Discovery Games have always been a key and enjoyable competition in the boccia calendar. This year the competition was held on 9 September at the Dundee International Sports Centre and once again it was a great success.

The clubs I help coach at are: West of Scotland Boccia Club, East of Scotland Boccia Club, Dundee Boccia Club and Right on Target Boccia Club. All four clubs had players competing in Dundee with some experienced faces and some new-comers. This made it a very exciting competition and one from which the clubs will take a lot of learning and experience.

My role on the day was refereeing – I know, poor players! However it was very enjoyable to referee high quality games and gain more experience in a different area of boccia. The most beneficial thing about refereeing for me is I get the best seat in the house to watch the players’ techniques and what shots they play, which I can then use to help the players when I coach at their club after the competition. I am looking forward to furthering my refereeing knowledge by doing my level 2 refereeing course in the near future.

I would like to thank Darren Thomson and the rest of the organisers for a great competition and thanks to Jen Scally and Martin Thomson for helping me with measuring and the score sheets.

If you would like more details of the competition or the club then please email me: lewis.mcconnell@scottishdisabilitysport.com

Advertisements

A Winning Weekend in Liverpool!

Liverpool hosted the Boccia UK Championships from the 11 August – 13 August. Players need to qualily from their Regional and National Championships as they battle to become the best in the UK.

You’re probably wondering what a coach gets up to during a competition?!

FRIDAY 11 AUGUST

Players,coaches and support staff all arrived for training, equipment checks and meetings. Some travel by car, others by train or plane. I was very lucky to have the BC4 World Champion Stephen McGuire drive me down.

Training

As a coach I needed to help the Scottish players get used to courts, e.g the speed and any uneven sections. I also helped the players practise different shot types that they might play in their matches and made sure they knew the playing schedule for the weekend.

Equipment check

Players had their equipment checked which was going to be taken onto court, e.g. boccia balls, wheelchairs and ramps. I was on hand with my fellow coaches to support the players if any of their equipment failed and tried to keep them focused ahead of the competition.

Meeting

All the Scottish coaches had a meeting where we discussed our expectations of the players and coaches during the competition, our roles as coaches during the competition and also how the weekend would help to shape the future of boccia in Scotland.

SATURDAY 12 AUGUST

There was a 5:30am wake up call, get up, dressed and ready, breakfast and arrive at the venue before 8am!

Warm Up

You could say that the players who were on first thing in the morning were unlucky but the advantage they had was they had the opportunity to warm up on the match court on which they would play their first round game.

For the players who had a long lie and didn’t start their competition until later on in the day, they  needed to do their warm up on the warm up courts provided.

When the players were warming up I was letting them do their personal warm up routine but helped them to stay focused and motivated.

Call Up Room

The call up room was where the players met their opponents and the referee and where the coin toss took place.

My role was too keep the player mentality match ready, to keep them relaxed if needed and to reinforce key things for them to think of and do during the match.

Game On

During the matches I would watch what the players were well doing well and the things they could work on. I would also watch for any momentum changes during the match and shout encouragements when needed. Watching the opponents was also important to learn their game for future matches.

Feedback

After the matches it was important for a coach to give the players good feedback to take into their next match and the rest of the competition. First of all I asked the players what they thought about their performance and how they felt about how the game went. Then we would discuss some things to think about and work on for the rest of their matches and the rest of the competition, after that, as a coach, I would finish on something positive about their performance to keep the players feeling confident.

Recovery

The recovery period after a match is really important for a player.

So as a coach I needed to make sure players were getting the proper recovery that they needed. This could be different for each player, e.g.:

  • Going out for fresh air
  • Going to the hotel for a rest
  • Getting some light physio
  • Getting some food
  • Listening to music

This was the general formula I used for the full day alongside my fellow coaches.

SUNDAY 13 AUGUST

On Sunday we generally used the same formula as Saturday.

Finishing the Pool Games

It was tough coaching the final pool games because naturally the players would think of every scenario that they needed to get through to the medal matches instead of focusing on their own performance (hmm I know a former player that used to do that). So for me it was keeping the players that I was with focusing on what they could do and let the rest take of itself.

Medal Matches

All the players were thinking about their winning speeches and how they were going to thank me for being a great coach, honestly! In all seriousness the players were busy focussing on their medal matches and their tactics for the games ahead going into the finals.

Celebrations

It was time to celebrate and listen to the winning speeches. OK they didn’t thank me, in fact they didn’t even do winning speeches. To be honest if they did they would thank my fellow Scottish coaches Andrinne Craig, Jennifer Livingstone and Claire Morrison for all the great work they done over the weekend and tell me to be quiet and do some work!

I would like to say well done to all Scottish players, coaches and support staff.

BC 1
Reegan Stevenson

BC 2
Callum Glasgow

BC 3
Scott McCowan – Gold
Gary McCowan (ramp assistant)
Jamie McCowan – Silver
Linda McCowan (ramp assistant)
Patrick Wilson – Bronze
William Wilson (ramp assistant)

BC 4
Stephen McGuire – Gold
Peter McGuire – Bronze
Ross Munro

I would like to give a special thanks to Glynn Tromans, Boccia UK Performance Coach, for letting me shadow him on the first morning.

If you would like to see videos and interview from the Championships then please visit my YouTube channel:
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCPl68FhmdC3nCzJHC1QbYsA

My email is: lewis.mcconnell@scottishdisabilitysport.com

Having a Ball at the Festivals

2017-03-31 FestivalParasport Festivals are days run by Scottish Disability Sport to give young people the chance to try out different sports.  The idea of the days is to encourage the young people to take up new sports and hopefully progress through the performance pathway.

Recently I have delivered boccia sessions at some Parasport Festivals in three different regions: West, Tayside and East of Scotland. My main aim was to try and get new players playing and interested in boccia and if possible try and find the next Stephen McGuire – World Champion!

West Parasport Festival

The West Parasport Festival took place on Friday 10 March where I delivered two sessions at Ravenscraig Sports Centre – one session for wheelchair users and one session for people with visual impairments. The wheelchair user session went really well with the young people working on their skills before playing a game of boccia. We hope to see all the players back on a boccia court and hopefully progressing through the pathway. The visual impairment session was set up in the same way and the young people seemed to really enjoy the session and were keen to play more boccia. I’m going to be going into Uddingston Grammar to work with the pupils with a visual impairment to try and grow the sport in the country.

Tayside Parasport Festival

Dundee and Angus college was the venue for the Tayside Parasport Festival on Wednesday 15 March. The boccia session was for wheelchair users and the young people had the chance to practice their skills and for some a chance to try a new sport. Once the skills had been practiced, the young people then had the chance to play a match against Paralympian Joshua Rowe. The players were desperate to beat Josh and hopefully if they continue to play boccia they’ll manage to beat someone of that high level one day.

East Parasport Festival

The East Parasport Festival was held at Forrester High School on Friday 24 March and I was leading the boccia session with the support of the East of Scotland Boccia Club coaches. We had 11 participants and they were encouraged by Paralympic boccia player Patrick Wilson. I’m sure we’ll see a future Paralympian from the East in the future.

I would like to thank:

  • The Regional Managers at SDS for running great festivals
  • Volunteers and Coaches for leading the sessions
  • Josh Rowe and Patrick Wilson for supporting the festivals

 

Coaching to the Next Level

As part of my Coaching Futures Apprenticeship I need to gain coaching qualifications and I recently attended the UKCC Level 2 Boccia.

The duration of the coursewas five days over three weekends, tutored by Andrinne Craig and Claire Morrison.  The first four days were split between theory and practical work, covering shot types, analysing matches, mindset and a lot more.

All candidates had the opportunity to coach each other on the course and trust me some of the play on show needed a lot of coaching! However the coaching was of really high quality and improvements were made by players and coaches. It was a very competitive group but I took home the Gold! Oh wait that just my footwear!

On the final day we had to do a multiple choice exam paper, a practical assessment and submit a completed portfolio. I would like to thank Meg Turner and Michael Robertson for doing a great job being my scribes.

What I Go To School For?

Peter McGuire throwing blue boccia ball

In partnership with South Lanarkshire Leisure and Culture, I have been going into schools in the South Lanarkshire area to promote a new Boccia Club which is taking place at the Ally McCoist sports centre in East Kilbride on a Monday from 4:30pm – 6:00pm.

I have been delivering Boccia taster sessions in the schools to show the pupils what Boccia is and to promote the new club. The sessions consist of fun games that can introduce new players and young kids to Boccia. Within the session the young people also get the opportunity to play a full game of boccia and learn the rules of the sport.

It’s good to see the pupils engaging in the sport and I hope to see them at the Ally McCoist sports centre for the new Boccia club on a Monday night. The teachers also got really into it and showed their competitive sides (but I hope we don’t see them at the club).

I am really looking forward to the new club starting and we are hoping to have Scottish Boccia Squad player and Paralympian, Peter McGuire, leading the sessions in the near future.

If you would like any more information please contact me at Lewis.McConnell@scottishdisabilitysport.com

Boccia Highlights from Rio

Nine representatives from Scottish Boccia were selected to represent ParalympicsGB in the Rio Paralympic Games:

  • Six athletes – Joshua Rowe, Scott McCowan, Jamie McCowan, Patrick Wilson, Stephen McGuire, Kieran Steer
  • Two athlete’s assistants – Gary McCowan, Linda McCowan
  • One coach – Claire Morrison

The team flew to Rio a few days before competition started to prepare for the games and adapt to the surroundings, time difference and temperature and were even lucky enough to attend the opening ceremony. This was really positive from a Scottish point of view as five of the nine representatives were making their Paralympic debut and Scotland made up 60% of the GB Boccia squad.

boccia-players-in-rio

The competition started with the team and pairs events:

BC1/2 team- David Smith, Nigel Murray, Joshua Rowe, Claire Taggart

The team, including Scottish BC2 Joshua Rowe, were in a tough pool alongside the Netherlands and Japan.  A final pool game against Japan was always going to be tough and GB lost 10-4 but an earlier comfortable 11-2 victory over the Netherlands was enough to progress to the quarter finals and play the world number 1’s, Thailand. Unfortunately that was the end for GB as Thailand advanced to the semi-final.

BC3 Pairs- Patrick Wilson, Jamie McCowan, Scott McCowan

An all-Scottish BC3 team found it difficult in the pool and didn’t progress to the quarter finals, however they did finish on a positive with a 3-1 win over Singapore. This is a very young team and I’m sure there’s more to come from them in the future.

BC4 Pairs- Stephen McGuire, Evie Edwards, Kieran Steer

A BC4 team including two Scots were hoping to medal in Rio. They got off to the perfect start by beating Slovakia, Hong Kong and Portugal to top their pool. In the semi-final they came up against the host nation Brazil who were also looking to medal. GB put up a good fight but on this occasion Brazil came out on top with a 4-2 victory putting GB into the bronze medal match. Thailand were GB’s opponent in the bronze medal match, G.B took a 2-0 lead after the first two ends however Thailand managed to crawl their way back in to the match and went on to win 3-2. GB ended up with a disappointing but respectable 4th place.

Individuals

BC2- Joshua Rowe

Joshua was competing in his first Paralympic games and found himself in a pool with strong opposition from Portugal and Thailand. The Scot can hold his head up high as he played to his best in a very competitive competition. There was to be no medal for Joshua this time around but Scotland is proud of what he has achieved so far.

 

BC3- Patrick Wilson, Scott McCowan, Jamie McCowan

Both McCowan brothers fought hard in each of their pools but unfortunately didn’t progress to the knock out stages. Both players can be proud of getting to this stage as Scott has struggled with illness this season and Jamie was competing in his first Paralympic Games. Patrick reached the quarter finals after having a very good competition in the pools. In the quarter final he was up against the World Number 2, Kim from Korea. Wilson put up a good fight by scoring 3 points however it wasn’t enough in this occasion as Kim came out on top to win 4-3. Even though Patrick didn’t progress to the medal matches he should be delighted with his performances.

BC4- Stephen McGuire and Kieran Steer

After a really difficult year for Kieran everyone was wishing him well willing him to achieve his best. It was always going to be a tough for Kieran as he was in a pool alongside the eventual silver medallist.  There was some outstanding boccia played by Kieran and he should take a lot of positives from his first experience at the Paralympics and he should look towards Tokyo 2020. Stephen topped his pool with world class boccia on show. McGuire progressed to the quarter finals where he played the World Number 1 Leung from Hong Kong, after a very close match Stephen lost 4-2 to the eventual Paralympic champion. I hope we see the World Champion Stephen McGuire winning a medal in Tokyo.

It was a really difficult competition for GB Boccia and one that they will reflect on. There was a positive ending as David Smith won gold in the BC1 classification.

Everyone at Scottish Boccia would like to congratulate all those who competed for ParalympicsGB in Rio.

 

If you’d like any more information please contact me on the email address below

Lewis.McConnell@scottishdisabilitysport.com

Coaching with Style

There are different styles of coaching. The two main styles that I’ve come across are a “questioning coach” or a “telling coach”; however of course there are more styles of coaching and I aim to learn from as many coaches as I can over my coaching journey.

Questioning Coach

From observing other coaches, a questioning coach is one who encourages their athletes to think about what they are doing and why they are doing it. This method seems to be used more at the elite and competition level as it’s important that the athlete can go onto the field of play and perform to their best with minimum coaching interference to reach the top level of their sport. Often in this style of coaching, the coach will draw out feedback as well as give feedback and will try to suggest and demonstrate ways to improve on weaknesses, but mainly the athlete takes ownership of decision making. Questioning can also be useful to use with players new to the sport as it promotes independence and helps them to think about the shot process.

Telling Coach

In my experience this type of coach tells their athlete what to do and makes most decisions for them. This method is mainly used for younger or newer athletes who are still learning the sport, however it can also be used to teach new skills or tactics. When an athlete trains and competes under a telling style of coaching, the player will tend to have a formula to follow which is set by their coach. This encourages the player to rely on the coach when it comes to competitions which can make it difficult for them to learn to make decisions during a game.

boccia-playersBy working with coaches who use a mixture of both questioning and telling styles, I have found that both styles can have some negatives. For example, by questioning an athlete too much they can get confused and might not know what the right thing to do is. However if you always tell an athlete what to do they will rely on the coach too much and won’t be able to make decisions when competing.

I feel if you want to be the best coach it is important to take bits from all the different coaching styles and come up with your own style that suits you and your players.

Lastly, I would like to wish GB Boccia all the best at the Paralympics in Rio, especially the Scottish athletes: Joshua Rowe, Patrick Wilson, Scott McCowan, Gary McCowan, Jamie McCowan, Linda McCowan, Stephen McGuire, Kieran Steer and the throwers’ coach, Claire Morrison.

If you would any more boccia information then please contact me on Lewis.McConnell@scottishdisabilitysport.com.