When we lose a sense, our other senses compensate for the loss. The sport of goalball is specifically designed for people with low vision or blindness, who rely on their other senses to navigate the world.
Unlike other Paralympic sports, goalball was not adapted from an able-bodied equivalent. The concept of the sport is unique and combines elements of soccer, lawn bowls, and curling. Anyone can play the sport; however, sighted players are required to wear blindfolds to replicate blindness.
With goalball on our screens at the moment, and our own Aussie Belles competing in Tokyo, we’re breaking down the aim of the game for everyone who might not have seen it played before!
- Only three players are allowed on a court at once: this gives players enough space to feel the surface of the court in order to determine the best position for blocking.
- Players rely on a set of commands given by the referee and bells inside the ball to track direction of play.
- The main objective is to roll the ball into your opponent’s net while defending your own.
- The only player who is permitted to stand is the player who is throwing or shooting the ball.
There are three categories for players: B1 is for players who are totally blind, and B2 and B3 players are the categories for those with limited vision. There is no separate competition for each classification. A sighted player’s classification can be lowered to B1 with blindfolds; this creates a fair playing field for all athletes. Only the referee can be sighted, as they give directions during a game.
You might wonder why players are lying on the ground during a game - they are not playing dead or sleeping - this is a common tactic for blocking shots, like the formation of defenders in a soccer match.
Goalball is the only team sport where the plays are audio described by the referee, making it easier to watch. As a result, if there is any crowd reaction during play, spectators will be told to be quiet. This is because crowd noise will drown out the sound of the ball.
Try it at home
Goalball demonstrates the importance of hearing for the blind. If you want to try it for yourself, put a blindfold on your friend and ask them to catch a ball. To make it more like the real game, put an object inside the ball, such as frozen peas or rice, or use a pet’s toy with a bell inside it. Good luck!
Want to give Goalball a go?
The Sporting Wheelies and Disabled Association run programs in Brisbane and Cairns to give people the opportunity to play the sport.