July 26, 2019
In 2013, my little brother and I were accepted into a weeklong goalball training camp with team USA at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. That was all it took for us to fall in love with the sport. Unfortunately, Oklahoma does not have a goalball presence that compares to some other states. Since our trip to Colorado, we have found ourselves working for the largest employer of the blind and visually impaired in state, NewView Oklahoma. Working for NewView opened the door to numerous resources within the blind community, which led to my brother and I meeting regularly about bringing goalball to Oklahoma. Our vision was (and still is) to make Oklahoma a goalball state so that, a few years from now, our state can host tournaments that draw competitive teams from around the country. Go big or go home, right?
We made some progress but struggled to get traction with goalball in Oklahoma. Then everything changed when the Goalball Gods decided to drop us an unexpected present. That present was the UCO Endeavor Games adding goalball to their list of sports for the first time. Two weeks later, the NewView Lookouts were registered and ready to compete in the tournament. Only four teams registered for the event, with one of those teams dropping out beforehand. But this was the open door we needed as we continued our exciting grassroots initiative. Oh, I almost forgot, the NewView Lookouts took home the gold medal!
If I had to describe playing goalball for the first time in one word, I’d use the word exciting. Leading up to the game, though, I was pretty nervous. When asked if I would be interested in playing, I had to think about it for a while. I had heard of goalball, and I had even played it in grade school gym class and once at a summer camp when I volunteered at NewView.
I figured I’d give it a try for the Endeavor Games tournament; I try to live by the Wayne Gretsky quote, “You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.”
In the hours leading up to the event, I watched, read and ask friends about how the game worked. Luckily, the team arrived at the gym early so we could practice throwing, blocking, passing and so we could talk strategy. Once the whistle blew, I thought, “Here goes nothing.” When I scored my first goal on my first roll, all my nerves went away. Right before the half, I took a wicked ball to the face. Although it hurt, I didn’t have time to focus on the pain, because I had to get the ball to the other end of the court before 10 seconds were up. After my first goal and first hard block to the face, the rest of the game was smooth sailing.
As you can see, my first time playing goalball was pretty eventful and was even better when we won. I do look forward to playing more games in the future with Mark and Kyle.
Most people don’t know what goalball is, so I want to give a little background and specifics about the game. Goalball was created during WWII to help veterans stay active after service and is the only sport designed for visually impaired athletes. The objective is to roll a ball down the court and across the opposing team’s goal line. Each team consists of three players, and each player, regardless of his or her vision, wears a blindfold. In order for players to locate the ball, there are bells inside the ball that jingle when it is thrown or rolled. Since the players have to be able to hear, the crowd is very quiet compared to other sports—that is, until a team scores! Each team also has its own rectangular area with tactile lines, which help players orient themselves on the court.
Each team has a left wing, center, and right wing player. The two wings are typically the best offensive players on the team, while the center focuses on defense. The center is also responsible for communicating with the team by letting teammates know where a ball is coming from and calling out how much time is left on the shot-clock. Teams typically use a ‘zone’ defensive scheme, meaning the wings stay closer to the goal and out-of-bounds lines in their respective areas. The center stays close to the front line and has free movement within that zone. This allows for the three players to cover their area completely and block the ball from going across the goal line.
I typically play center, while Mark and Trey played left and right wings at the Endeavor Games. When we all work together and communicate, the results are awesome—and I think our teamwork is what helped us win!
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