Military veteran and amputee Gaz Golightly never thought he would be able to play sport with his four children but his involvement in pickleball changed that and has spiralled into something even greater.

Following a car accident in 2002, while driving to a routine guard duty shift in Wiltshire, the Carlisle-based dad suffered life-changing injuries, resulting in a double-leg amputation.

Golightly was a permanent wheelchair user for six and a half years, turning his hand to many wheelchair sports but the 42-year-old admitted pickleball is the most inclusive he has ever played.

Ahead of the English Nationals 2023 in Bolton, where he is set to compete in the wheelchair men’s singles category, Golightly explained his wider mission as a coach, to provide opportunities for other veterans to get on court with a paddle in hand.

“It’s the first sport that I’ve ever done where there’s no divide,” he said. “You can go to a training session, and you can play against everybody of any age.

“I’ve done wheelchair sports for the last 10 years, I can’t run, I’m not the greatest on my legs so when you get in a chair, you get the feeling of being in control and moving around comfortably.

“When I got to my training sessions, you’re playing against anybody and everyone, whether they’re in a wheelchair or able-bodied, kids. There are no restrictions, it’s brilliant.

“Being a military veteran, I see the benefits from a recovery point of view as well, the way that you can play the game with your children, the way it extends to your partner.

“It’s very inclusive and doing the coaching side of it intrigued me because from a wheelchair point of view it’s an adaption of the able-bodied game.”

Over the past year, pickleball has seen a meteoric rise in the UK due to its inclusive and accessible nature, with an estimated 12,000 regular players and over 450 venues offering the sport across the country.

There are now 682 athletes attending the National Championships at the Bolton Arena, up from 430 at the 2022 event.

The GB sitting volleyball athlete and former wheelchair basketballer has recently qualified as a Level 1 coach, and took his new-found knowledge to Burnley Football Club, where he put on a session for 17 fellow veterans.

Three have joined local clubs since and Golightly, who has sourced 10 wheelchairs for use with the help of his wife Dee, is hoping his appearance at the English Nationals 2023 can spread his cause further within the sport.

“I’ve seen the potential of developing the wheelchair side of it to the point where I entered the English Open in the able-bodied singles men’s category at my skill level,” he added.

“It was to promote that wheelchair players can play against anyone.

“I just want to keep making awareness that the wheelchair side of it is there and it has grown.

“We’ve got a couple of extra players coming along and the support we’ve been getting is fantastic.”

2023 English Nationals takes place at Bolton Arena from Thursday 26th October to Sunday 29th October. This year’s English Nationals is sponsored by Skechers, Franklin, Scan and UK Pickleball Shop, Play will commence from 9am each day. Head to to find out more or to find your nearest place to play.