On October 18th, NABA Youth Program and Averill Park High School student Megan coordinated a unique sporting event that is typically played by blind and visually impaired athletes. As a visually impaired track athlete who has played this game many times, Megan thought it would be fun to share it with her sighted friends and school staff.
Goalball is a modified “soccer-like” game that originated after World War II. Created in 1946 by Austrian Hanz Lorenzen and German Sepp Reindle, the game was devised as a way to assist in the rehabilitation of WWII veterans with vision loss. Played indoors with three teams, games consist of 12 minute halves where blind and blindfolded participants (to level the playing field for partially sighted players) must listen for the jingling soccer-sized ball and prevent the ball from going into the opponent’s goal. Participants lay on the floor, listening for the ball and use their ear-hand coordination to block the ball. No kicking allowed! Needless to say this is a relatively quiet sport – no shouting or cheering – as players must listen for the location of the jingling goalball. Goalball has grown into an international sport with competitions in over 80 countries.
Megan and a few of her friends shared their experiences from the fun-filled evening. In this interview, Megan shared a bit of who she is and her inspiration followed by some commentary from participants.
“My name is Megan I am a 17 year old senior at Averill Park High School. After high school, I am going to Hudson Valley to study Physical Education hoping to get a career as an Adaptive Physical Education Teacher. Every year the senior class has an annual dodgeball tournament. For years I’ve tried to get goalball as an additional sport to this tournament. Now that it’s my senior year, I did what I could to make this happen. I wanted to have goalball with dodgeball because I wanted to show the sighted kids in my class what a sport for the blind looks and feels like.
I volunteer because it makes me feel good to help others. When I volunteer I get to see new places and meet new people. I don’t do it for a grade or to get community service hours or to look good. I do it because it makes me feel good.
There isn’t much that I would like my sighted classmates to know except that no matter the level of sight, we can do everything you can do. We can ride a bike, we can run, we can lift weights, we can do whatever you can except see. I guess that’s why this year I am taking Sign Language and Photography and next year is Physical Education. These classes you don’t see a lot of blind people doing. When you see it people automatically think that it’s impossible for them or dangerous and when the blind person proves them wrong, they learn a great lesson. I am also on the track team. I come up with my own ways to make it accessible for me and when someone says “That’s too dangerous”, I say “No it’s not. Watch me!”
An Interview with Megan’s sighted classmate and long-time friend Bella:
How do you think the goalball game went? “I think it went way better than I expected.”
Did everyone seem accepting of the game? “Yeah! When we did our first introductory game the whole audience was getting so excited and would cheer and call out things every time we scored like any other sighted game. They were respectful and quiet when they needed to be and it was almost like in anticipation of what was going to happen next. As the night progressed, larger groups came down asking if they could play too and they all had a great time doing it. Everyone was laughing and we almost didn’t have enough space for everyone who wanted to play.”
Did you like playing it and do you think that this should be played during gym? Why or why not. “I definitely enjoyed the game and I’d love to play it during gym class… I don’t know how many people in the gym classes [would play]… But I think once people got the hang of it they’d enjoy it.”
Would you do another activity like this again? “Of course!”
Has this game given you a different perspective on things? “Not necessarily a different perspective rather it made me so happy to see everyone else being more accepting that night. It started out rough and our spirits were a little low, but the first three people to come down for another game made me so happy and I’m pretty sure I started crying a bit.”
Anything else you would like to add? Megan is freakin’ awesome!
Comments from students who participated:
“My name’s Marty and I’m in 12th grade. I knew Megan in sixth grade but we became friends in eighth grade when we were throwing for our track team. I think the goalball game went very well. People were wanting to play the game so I believe people accepted it. I enjoyed the game a lot, but I don’t think it would be a good game in gym. It would be hard for the kids to stay quiet enough to be able to play! I would be willing to play any other games like this. I would not say it’s changed my perspective on things.”
My name is Meilin and I am a senior at Averill Park High School. “I met Megan when we were in middle school through a mutual friend. When Megan first came up to me wanting to start a goalball game during dodgeball, I thought it was the perfect opportunity for her to throw her pitch in with the school. The only problem was it was a little difficult for people to take Megan seriously. Other than that, once the game was actually set up it was a blast. Students, faculty and staff helped a little set everything up and even cared to play the game with us. It was a fun experience to help Megan and help explain the game to others; people watch others enjoy the game, and to see how hard it is to play a game without your vision. I think that if they started playing goal ball in gym once people have it explained to them and watch a demonstration, people would really start to get into it. For me, I’m always up for a challenge and to expand my knowledge of things and this was a very interesting thing to learn about. I love sports. I’m currently also in track with Megan and this game was fun to play alongside with Megan and Faith [Megan’s friend from NABA Youth Program] who was just wonderful to meet. If the opportunity came to me, I would definitely play this again and would even be interested to learn other games and activities like goalball. This game really opened my eyes to see how people can come together through their differences when they find a common interest. Which was also cool and why I enjoyed it so much. Thank you [NABA] for letting the Averill Park High School borrow all the equipment we needed and hope we get to do this again.”
We at NABA are so proud of her initiative in creating this special event to help raise awareness about students with vision loss…and just to share a fun night of sportsmanship and friendship learning a new sport. What a great effort Megan!
For more information about the sport of goalball, go to https://www.usaba.org/sports/goalball/.