Tia Ruel, a student with cerebral palsy, tells us what it’s like juggling college life with her quest for a parasport career.
I should probably start by saying that anything is possible if you believe in yourself. Follow your dream, but also follow your education.
Like every student, I have problems and difficulties but mine are a bit more challenging than most. I have a disability called cerebral palsy. My life can be very different from other students but I wouldn’t change it. I’ve achieved things most people my age could only dream of.
Cerebral palsy is caused by an injury to the brain. My cerebral palsy affects all four of my limbs and my speech and I spend the majority of the day in an electric wheelchair. I find it hard to communicate, especially with my class. I can’t write and I can’t use a normal keyboard which means I need a lot of support.
I’ve been playing Boccia for about 7 years but only over the past 2 years have I been taking having a disability sports career seriously. Boccia is a ball sport, related to bowls and pétanque. It is contested at local, national and international levels by athletes with severe physical disabilities which affect and restrict their movement. In 1984 it became a Paralympic sport, and is now played in over fifty countries. I compete at regional and national level and last year I competed at my first international for England! I love Boccia and one day I’d love to represent my country in the Paralympics. Achieving my goals in a sports career is going to take a lot of work, but I can do it. To find out about Boccia go to: www.bocciaengland.org.uk
Work and play
I’m studying a BTEC Level 3 certificate in Sports and I have to fit training, physio and studying into my daily routine too, which can be tricky. I train and have physio twice a week. Training can be tedious, doing the same thing over and over, but I know one day it’ll all pay off. College are really supportive of my commitment to playing Boccia, letting me have time off to travel up north and accepting that I can be a bit tired after a weekend of competing. When I’m at college I need a lot of support. I get support in lessons, taking notes and typing, and I get support at breaks.
As a physicaly disabled student at Treloar College, I have access to all the support I need. I have physio twice a week, to help with my Boccia training and I also have speech and language therapy. Trying to fit everything into a day can be challenging. When I’m not in a lesson or doing assignments, I’ll be in a physiotherapy session, training or sleeping. Sleep is good!
I’m not going to uni this year. I’m going to take a year out to play Boccia full time and concentrate on my parasport career. This might be a crazy move, but it’s what I want to do. I love being an athlete and hope I can inspire young people like me to follow their dream.
I’m not your average teenager. Sport has been a huge part of my life for a long time now, and I don’t think I’d be me without it. Boccia has brought me out of my shell and probably changed my life forever. Its’ a challenge, but its’ a challenge I love.
Everyone has the potential to succeed in whatever they want to do. You’ll have success, you’ll have failure, and you’ll have days when you’ll think why do I do this? In the end it’ll be worth it. Moving on is scary, I’m petrified but I know I’ll be ok. I love Boccia, and one day I’d love to represent my country in the Paralympics. It’s going to take a lot of work, but I can do it.
The future is Boccia!
My journey isn’t over. I have a year left of college, I have to train and compete. One day I’ll do it, I’ll represent my country and my advice to students like me is never give up, you will get there and anything is possible if you believe in yourself – I do and I hope whoever is reading this, whether doing parasport or not, does too!
For more information on careers in sports go to our leisure and sports page.