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Man with a beard getting ready to toss a goalball away from the net.What is goalball? Goalball is a unique, fast-paced team sport played specifically by individuals who are blind and vision impaired, and has been around since 1946. It started as an effort, by Austrian Hanz Lorenzen and German Sepp Reindle, to help rehabilitate visually impaired World War II veterans. It eventually developed into a competitive team sport when in 1972, goalball was introduced as a demonstration sport in the Paralympic games. Four years later, goalball became an official paralympic sport at the 1976 games in Canada.

In goalball, there are two teams of three players each and the object of the game is to “roll” a ball, about the size of a basketball and weighing 2.8 pounds past the opposing team. The goalball houses bells inside, so that the players hear audio cues to locate it and the court is marked with raised lines so that players can feel their location at any time. Each player wears eyeshades to ensure a level playing field and the teams alternate playing offense and defense. The offensive team rolls or throws the ball, using various techniques of motion, in an attempt to get the ball past the opposing three players. The defensive team listens for the approach of the ball and attempts to prevent or block the ball from crossing the goal line—similar to the way a soccer goalie extends their body to block. The ball is rolled back and forth with the offensive and defensive teams alternating until time expires for the half. The game is played in two five- or seven-minute periods and the team with the most points wins. There are women’s and men’s teams with no differences in equipment or rules.

Sounds simple enough, right? Goalball is a strategic, competitive sport. Just imagine having a nearly three-pound ball thrown in your direction at a speed up to 60 MPR during a fast-paced game and having to block it with your whole body. In addition, the players and spectators must remain silent during gameplay, in respect to the players so they can hear the bells and listen to the officials. But true to all competitive sporting events, the crowds can cheer when their favorite team scores.

To see a clip of the USA Paralympic Goalball Team in action at the 2020 Paralympics in Tokyo, click here. To learn more about goalball, visit the NWABA website at nwaba.org/blog/goalball_2022.