‘Going for Gold’ – college leader takes on the world in disabled sport

Member News

An assistant principal at Northampton College is swapping the classroom for the boccia court as she prepares to coach the British team in the World Championships in Brazil.

Sarah Nolan combines her role at Northampton College with a key position at Boccia UK, the sport’s national governing body. Boccia is a sport designed for athletes with high support needs, typically cerebral palsy, and has no Olympic equivalent. It is similar to wheelchair boules or petanque and is played indoors with soft leather balls.

Sarah, aged 50 from Woodford, coaches the British BC1/BC2 [SN1] Team and is personal assistant to two times individual paralympic [SN2] gold medallist David Smith.

Next month she will fly out to Rome for the World Challenger competition before heading to Rio in December for the World Championships.

She said: “I’ve been involved in the boccia scene for about 15 years now, dating back to when I was a social worker and I ran short breaks for young people with physical disabilities. I became a personal assistant to one of the players and went on some overseas trips and eventually I was asked to be part of the coaching set-up.

“It’s taken me all over the world and we recently won Gold at the World Open in Portugal. Working with champion athletes such as David has been amazing. The skill and determination they have is phenomenal and I’m looking forward to seeing how we do on the biggest stage.

“It’s one of the most severely disabled sports within the Paralympic sphere and understanding the mental side of things is so important. It’s vital to get to know them as people rather than just athletes and I have built up a great rapport with David over the years – he even asked me to be best man at his wedding!”

Sarah has recently been appointed Assistant Principal for Academy, Public Sector & Commercial Enterprise at Northampton College but will be taking time out from that role to coach the British squad.

For more information on courses available from this September at Northampton College visit www.northamptoncollege.ac.uk

[SN1]Capital needed – BC1

[SN2]Times individual paralympic