They literally hear the ball coming across the court before they fearlessly stretch out to catch it just like a soccer goalkeeper would do. The rubber ball comes rolling and bouncing at full speed at players wearing blacked-out ski goggles. Yes, that’s right: goalball players can’t see a thing. Some are blind, some are visually impaired in various ways and some are sighted – the ski goggles just level the playing field.
And just how do they hear the ball? There’s a little bell inside of it.
On Saturday, the newly formed goalball team Spokane Spin will host a scrimmage and demonstration at East Central Community Center.
Kevin Daniel, executive director of Light House for the Blind, is the coach.
They started the team in March, “Mainly for Light House employees to have something that promoted fitness,” said Daniel. “I am a School For the Blind graduate and this was a game we played when I was a kid.”
Northwest Association for Blind Athletes is in full support of the demonstration on Saturday.
“We mostly have programs on the West Side of the state, and this is a way we’re trying to move some programs to the East Side as well,” said Billy Henry, executive director of NABA, adding that the organization plans to hold a Paralympic event in Spokane in October.
It’s a simple game: three people on each team are lined up at opposite ends of a court and they take turns rolling a light rubber ball with a bell inside of it from one end of the court to the other. As the ball approaches, the defending team stretches out on the floor trying to block the ball.
Daniel said goalball is one of the only team sports for people who are visually impaired.
“The Spokane Spin will try to qualify for the national championship in Salt Lake City in June next year,” said Daniel.
Henry explained that goalball originated during and after World War II, as a way to rehabilitate veterans who had lost all or part of their eyesight during the war.
“It was something that was fun, so they wanted to do it,” said Henry, “and then they added a bell to the ball so it was easier to hear it.”
Daniel is excited about the new team and about introducing Spokane to the sport.
“We have come up with a great motto: Winning is not everything, it will just be our thing,” said Daniel. “It would be so great to bring a national championship to Spokane next year.”
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