Paralympic sport comes to Weston

PUBLISHED: 13:00 21 April 2015 | UPDATED: 15:20 21 April 2015

Goalball.

Goalball.

Archant

THE only sport specifically invented for the visually impaired has just launched a brand new club in Weston.

What is Goalball?

Goalball is the only sport invented specifically for the visually impaired.

Teams are made up of three people and blindfolds are used to ensure an even playing field for all.

A selection of raised markings are placed on the ground to create a court similar in size to a volleyball court, with the entire back wall forming a large goal area.

The ball has a loud bell inside meaning players rely 100 per cent on their hearing and the use of their bodies as barriers to catch the ball and prevent the opposing team from scoring.

The sport is currently the only Paralympic sport with a team for women and became hugely popular after London 2012.

In the past two years the number of active clubs in the UK has grown from 18 to 30, with Weston the latest location for a group.

For more information visit www.goalballuk.com

The sport was originally developed to help rehabilitate injured soldiers after World War Two and is played with raised markings on the floor.

All players wear blindfolds to ensure an even playing field and the ball is located through sound.

Becky Ashworth works for Goalball UK and is running the new sessions in Weston. She said: “I got into goalball through a passion for disability sport – I volunteered a lot during my degree and found it was something I wanted to get involved with as a career.

“I saw goaball on the television during London 2012 and was fascinated by the sport.

“Goalball UK didn’t have any clubs in the West Country. Our club that was the furthest south is in Gloucester, so I knew it was time to provide more goalball opportunities in the region, starting with Weston.

“The reason we chose Weston is because a former player lives here and he is really enthusiastic for goalball and wanted to get a club started.

“I am hoping it will develop into a sustainable club and will bridge the gap for the rest of Somerset, Devon and Cornwall.”

The company’s chief executive, Mike Reilly, said: “All too often visually-impaired people struggle to find a challenging and enjoyable activity that adequately caters to their disability. This can be especially upsetting for those who lose their sight later in life.

“Goalball gives people the chance to build their confidence and excel at a sport. Not only that, it offers a ready-made community of players and their families who band together to make each team a success. Whether you aspire to being a Paralympian, or simply want to enjoy yourself and join 
a friendly and supportive team, goalball is an ideal choice.”

Goalball.Goalball.

Reporter Briana Millett took part in a session to find out a little more about the Paralympic sport.

HEARING the words ‘we’ve only had one concussion in the past two years’ didn’t exactly make me feel at ease as I was about to put a blindfold on and prepare to have balls thrown in my general direction.

It’s always nice to get out of the office but if you’d told me I’d be spending my afternoon doing anything football-related, I would probably have laughed you out the door.

I spent my childhood terrified of being hit in the face by a ball 
and my teenage years hiding behind the school bike sheds to avoid taking part in PE lessons, so let’s just say sport doesn’t come naturally to me.

But, when I saw goalball was coming to Weston, I thought I’d see what all the fuss was about.

I love the fact anyone can take part, so I rocked up with my almost-perfect vision and immediately panicked when I put my blindfold on and heard Becky, the group’s co-ordinator, say the balls can travel up to 60 miles per hour – thankfully that’s just the experts.

After a few failed attempts at throwing in a straight line I started to get the hang of it and quickly learned to protect my face after a goalball to the chin.

Goalball Hans Price Sports Centre.Goalball Hans Price Sports Centre.

The ball has a loud bell inside which means you’re relying totally on your hearing and touch to discover where you are on the raised court.

Once you’ve got over the temptation to lift your blindfold up to get your bearings the game is easy to get your head around. The entire back wall makes up the goal with three people spread across the court, using their whole bodies as barriers to try to prevent the opposite team from scoring – but we all managed to sneak a few in the net.

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