Special Olympics National Games 2017 – Rachel Miller

It feels like years ago when I received a phone call asking if I was interested in becoming a competition manager for the Boccia at the 2017 National Special Olympic Games. In that 10 minute call I made a decision that changed the course of my year totally.

This was it I was going to be responsible for a Boccia competition for over 140 athletes. Where on earth was I going to start? First job was to find a deputy competition manager. Jenni was the perfect choice and once interviewed she thankfully accepted the role. After some training days with the national Special Olympics team we were ready.

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The next 8 months seem to be a bit of a blur filled with sourcing equipment for the games, recruiting officials, planning the venue layout and deciding how the competition would run. Suddenly we were a month away from the games with 143 athletes to division (the Special Olympic version of classification). Divisioning is a way of splitting the athletes into groups of up to 8 athletes. The athletes are split based on gender, age and ability. In order to get everyone divisioned for the boccia it involved hours of time spent with Jenni and I moving entry forms around on our office floor. Thankfully we moved to a much bigger office this year or I’m not sure how we would have managed.

Suddenly the 7th August arrived and we were on our way to the venue to set up. Our first day involved venue briefings, official and volunteer meetings and of course laying all the boccia courts. We were ready to go.

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Tuesday arrived and there was no amount of planning we could have done to prepare us emotionally for the moment 100+ athletes walked through the doors at 7:30am ready to compete. It was incredible; the competition had arrived. This first day of competition was 4 hours long but seemed to go in the blink of an eye. Our officials hit the ground running and did a fantastic job of both settling the athletes into the competition but also refereeing the games to a high standard. For some of our officials this was their first national games and they 100% rose to the challenge.

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Our biggest day of competition was Wednesday. All 143 athletes competed over 12 hours, across 10 courts. Except a slight hiccup with the first lot of results due to the competition system the day passed with no major problems. The standard of boccia was so high and several of the pools were split on only points difference. For our spectators the games were amazing to watch with lots of the competitors fighting it out to the last end.

Day three was the doubles competition. Again the standard of play and of officiating was impressive. It was great to see the pairs working hard together to achieve incredible results. Away from the games themselves this day will be remembered for the most amazing 20 minutes of dancing ever! Trying to fill in some time before the next round of games resulted in an unplanned and most spontaneous dancing session ever. With Uptown Funk blasting out we showed that boccia players, officials and volunteers definitely have the best moves.special-olympics-8

Just like that we were at our final day. Our team competition was underway and the event was winding down. The last day didn’t disappoint at all. The final games were as competitive as the first with players and officials running on pure adrenaline. Our closing ceremony involved more dancing and even a conga and then that was it we were done.

The Special Olympic National Games 2017 is 100% the hardest thing I have ever done in my life but it is also by far the greatest. I will always have fond memories special-olympics-4of this event but most importantly I will be forever grateful to everyone who volunteered, supported and most importantly played in the event. You were all incredible!

So what is next? Well since we got back from Sheffield Jenni and I have been approached about running some future competitions for different organisations including a couple of international ones. This is definitely an exciting time for us and we are looking forward to sharing some great news very soon.

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