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Sport Designed for Visually Impaired Athletes

Top athletes around the region convened in early February for the Cascade Classic, the Northwest Goalball Regional Tournament. If you’ve never seen the sport of goalball in action, you’re not alone. Most of its participants haven’t seen it, either. The Cascade Classic is held at the Washington State School for the Blind.

Eliana Mason, a two-time Paralympic goalball medalist said, “We always say goalball is the coolest sport you’ve never heard of. It’s for blind athletes, but you really have to see it for it to make sense.”

Goalball was invented by occupational therapists working with World War II vets who’d lost their sight in the war. It’s three-on-three, played on a volleyball-sized court, and the object is to roll a basketball-sized ball into an opponent’s goal. And everything about the experience is tailored to the needs of visually impaired people.

All participants wear black-out goggles, so everyone is equally sightless. The lines on the court are raised, making it possible for players to orient themselves. The ball itself has bells inside of it, so players can hear it as it moves around. And spectators are asked to maintain silence, to assist the players in their auditory navigation.

Tournament director Jen Armbruster said, “Instead of hand-eye coordination, it’s hand-ear coordination. Ambruster founded the tournament in 2010 at Portland State University. She said, “My big thing is just getting folks involved in physical activity, competitive or recreation. A lot of times, especially on the visually impaired and blind side, so many of them get pulled out of P.E. They don’t know the adaptations that are out there.”

Mason tried goalball and was never the same. “Jen took us to Florida for a youth tournament, and I fell in love with the sport after I got to compete and just be in the community. For the first time in my life, I didn’t feel like I had to compensate or work through a barrier. I could just be me.”

Possible Preaching Angle:

1) God is pleased when we make accommodations to include all the body of Christ in our activities. “We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. (Rom. 15:1); 2) We should all become experts at being silent and listening to hear God’s voice.

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