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The Sport Of Goalball

How would you like to have a three-pound ball the size of a basketball fired at you at 50, 60 miles an hour, and you have to hurl your body in a diving attempt to stop it while blindfolded?

This isn't some fraternity initiation prank. It's a real sport played by blind and visually impaired athletes all over the world. The game is called Goalball, and it's not for the fainthearted. In a recent article from the Herald Palladium (Michigan) newspaper, Nikki Buck of the U.S. National Goalball Team described the sport as "kind of like dodge ball but in reverse."

In 1946, Hanz Lorenzen of Austria and Sepp Reindle of Germany invented Goalball as a way to help rehabilitate veterans blinded during World War II. The game was first introduced to the worlde at the 1976 Paralympics in Toronto, and has been a Paralympic sport ever since.

The game is played with three players a side facing each other across a court nine meters wide and 18 meters long. A heavy string taped to each end of the court marks the area, or zone, the players can use to orient themselves to the court. They do this by feeling the string with their hands or feet. Each zone has three orientation lines that each player can use to make sure they are lined up properly.

A basketball-size ball with bells inside is used so players can hear it when it's thrown. The object of the game is to throw the ball in such a way that it rolls over the opposing team's goal line. Don't let the word "roll" fool you; players can put amazing speeds of 50 miles an hour or more on their throws. The defensive players listen for the ball, and attempt to block it with their bodies by diving on the floor. Once the ball is stopped, that team takes control of the ball and may attempt a throw of their own.

The main defensive player on a team is

the center. He or she is the main defensive player, and is responsible for defending a majority of the court. The center is placed in the middle of the court in front of the player's zone, and is flanked by two other players who play the wing positions. The primary job of the wings is to provide scoring. The center usually stops the ball, and passes it to one of the wings for a throw. A team also has three other players who can be used a substitutes during the game. All players, regardless of their degree of vision, must wear eyeshades, or blindfolds, while in the game.

A Goalball game is played in two 10-minute halves, with a three-minute intermission between halves. Should there be a tie at the end of regulation, the two teams play two additional three-minute overtime periods, and the first team to score is the winner.

Over the years, Goalball has become one of the most popular sports for the blind. Various tournaments and championships are held each year around the world. In the 2004 Athens Paralympic Games this past September, Denmark defeated Sweden to capture the men's gold medal, while the U.S. took the bronze. In the women's division, Canada captured the gold by beating the U.S., while Japan won the bronze.

If you'd like more information on Goalball, visit the International Blind Sports Federation website at:

You can also check out the site of the United States Association of Blind Athletes:

About the Author
Stephen Michael Kerr is the publisher of Adaptive Sports & Recreation, a free ezine dedicated to promoting sports for people with disabilities. You'll read fascinating articles about baseball for the blind, wheelchair hockey, and other similar sports. To read previous issues, visit:

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