A blindfold covers your eyes, forcing you to use your hearing and mentally map where you are and where the opponent is. Suddenly, the distant rings of bells approach you, making your ears perk up. Immediately you lie on the floor and create a wall with your limbs.
The hit comes suddenly, unexpected and expected at the same time. In an instant, you feel a sharp pain at the abdomen where the goal ball has hit you. The pain fades as fast as it has come. You have succeeded in defending your goal, but, that is definitely going to leave a bruise.
Created by Hanz Lorenzen and Sett Reindle in 1946, goalball was originally created to help rehabilitate blind and visually impaired World War II Veterans.
It wasn’t until 1976 at the 1976 Paralympic games in Toronto was it introduced as a medal sport. Currently, the sport is played in 112 countries around the world.
Consisting of two twelve-minute halves, the game’s objective is to roll the ball toward the opposing team’s goal and simultaneously guarding your own goal; the team who scores more points wins the game.
The game involves six participants (three per team), each whom must wear an eye mask. Sometimes eye patches are worn in addition to the eye masks, in case they become dislodged. Even blind athletes are required to wear the eye masks, because they can be legally blind and still have some vision so the masks ensure equality. There are bells inside the ball help orient the players and provide them with a sense of direction. The court boundaries are marked with tape over lengths of twine to let the players know their boundaries. Silence is vital to ensure that the players can hear the incoming ball.
Locally, Tyler Merren of Coral Springs, a blind international athlete, who has been blind for his entire life, is working on creating a South Florida team for aspiring goal ball athletes.
Meanwhile, the Miami Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired uses goal ball to help children develop gross motor and team building skills.