14 November 2019

A Loughborough College graduate is bound for Tokyo after being selected as a referee for the 2020 Paralympic Games.

Daniel Headley, who studied for a BA (Hons) in Sports Management with the College, is set to join colleagues from across the world in Japan next summer to officiate across team, pair and individual fixtures at the Ariake Gymnastic Centre, Koto City, on behalf of the Boccia International Sports Federation.

The 26 year-old is one of the sport’s youngest ever appointed international referees.

Daniel first got involved in the inclusive ball sport by chance, while he was still a student at Loughborough College, as part of a Guinness World Record attempt to play the longest Boccia match in 24 hours. A year later he had qualified as a national referee, impressing Boccia England with his enthusiasm and professionalism, before going on to be selected as a National Technical official, liner and timer at the London 2012 Paralympic Games.

Daniel, who two years ago further proved his investment in the sport by taking on the post of Development Officer with Boccia England, the sport’s national governing body, said: “I would be lying if I was to say I won’t be nervous but once it all gets underway, I will relax into it and enjoy the experience.

“After attending my first ever Boccia England competition and being included and welcomed by the staff, the other volunteers and the athletes, I realised I wanted to do more than just the event at college. I never thought it would lead to the Paralympics but it did, and it has been a dream come true.

“I am passionate about Boccia - not just because of the sport and the incredibly impressive athletes - but because of the network of people around the athletes - the teachers and coaches that are there at the start of somebody’s journey, whichever pathway they are following.

“Getting involved in sport is also about the friends you make along the way, from around the country and from around the world. You learn something new at every competition.

“I imagine the atmosphere and hype around Tokyo will be incredible.”

Boccia is the world’s fastest-growing inclusive sport and is a compelling ball game. It enables athletes with the most severe disabilities to participate and achieve success at a high level with the support of mobility aids and on court-sports assistants. Athletes compete as individuals, pairs, or in teams on indoor courts roughly the size of a badminton court, and during matches use balls to make a series of exciting shots including smashes, blocks, knock-offs and lay-ups with the aim of getting as close as they can to the jack.