WSU coach training to qualify for Summer Paralympic Games

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — Nick Taylor is no stranger to the Paralympics, but this game is different.

The Wichita native is trying to qualify for his fifth Paralympics, but this time in a new sport. His first four were in wheelchair tennis, but this time, it’s Boccia.

Boccia is similar to what we know as bocce ball. Taylor said training for this new sport is different.

“I can train all by myself,” Taylor said. “I don’t have to have other people there. I don’t have to have, you know, in tennis, I had to have somebody there. I don’t have that in Boccia, but that can also be a curse because I’m basically locked in a room for three or four hours a day with the only person to talk to is me.”

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Taylor said the hardest thing in trading for boccia is the fact that it’s an entirely different sport. It’s a target-ball sport, and the name is derived from the Italian word meaning “bowl.”

Boccia UK says on its website the aim of the game is to get closer to the jack (target) than your opponent. Athletes throw, kick or use a ramp to propel a ball onto the court with the aim of getting closest to a ‘jack’ ball.

The balls are made of leather and contain plastic granules, so they don’t bounce but will still roll.

Going from training with others in tennis to a sport like Boccia, where he is by himself, can present some mental challenges. He said spending time as a professor and coach at Wichita State helps ease those mental challenges.

“I think the biggest thing is I do other stuff, so you know, teaching classes at Wichita State, working with the tennis team. I think that’s the biggest way that I use to distract myself from the sport,” Taylor said.

Taylor is an 11-time grand slam champion, winning seven U.S. Open titles and four Australian Opens. He’s also represented the U.S. in every World Team Cup — the wheelchair equivalent of the Davis Cup — since 2000.

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