Goalball may have saved Nathan Purcell’s life. Always an
athlete, Nathan played soccer and “a little bit of football” until a degenerative retinal condition – Night Blindness, Congenital Stationary, CSNB1A – nearly ended his sports activities. As a middle school student at the Washington State School for the Blind, this had a major impact on this life. Then he discovered Goalball and powerlifting. “To be honest, I don’t know if I would still be alive,” Nathan says. “It helped me through an extremely difficult time in my life. I owe a lot to Goalball, powerlifting and sports in general.”
At first he didn’t feel comfortable playing Goalball. “I enjoyed it more the second year,” he says. “I got over my fear of the ball. I started to be able to track the ball and I got more into the sport.” To block shots, players listen to bells inside the ball and to the sound of the serve.
As a student, he traveled with the WSSB Goalball team to the youth championships in Florida three times. A 2013 graduate of WSSB, where he met NWABA Director Billy Henry, he now plays with the Northwest Avalanche adult team. NWABA has been instrumental in supporting Goalball across the region including starting and providing financial support to the Northwest Avalanche and awarding scholarship funding to help youth athletes travel to Florida for
the Youth Championships.
But Nathan has bigger aspirations. His impressive Goalball playing in Florida attracted an invitation to the Olympic training centers in Lake Placid, New York and Birmingham, Alabama where he continued to hone his skills. He was also picked as a starter for the USA Youth World Team, which competed in July in Colorado Springs.
Nathan has big goals for both sports and his career. He hopes to compete in the 2016 Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. “I believe I’m on the right track,” he says. He starts at Clark College in Vancouver, WA in September and aspires to eventually earn a PhD in physical therapy. Keep playing and learning, Nathan! NWABA salutes you.