There aren’t many opportunities for students with disabilities to play intercollegiate sports. For people with visual impairments, it’s nearly impossible to pursue their athletic dreams once they go off to college. However, the University of California-Berkeley is changing that.
Disability Scoop recently published a story about the UC Berkeley goalball team, who after two years of preparations, became the first collegiate goalball team in the country. Goalball is a game played by sightless individuals. The goal is to throw a 3-pound ball, (which is filled with bells) into the opponent’s net. The game is currently a Paralympic event, but is not played collegiately on campuses outside of UC Berkeley.
The sport was invented after World War II to help rehabilitate veterans who had lost their sight. A match has two, twelve-minute halves but can be stopped for penalties. Skilled players can hurl the ball up to 50 MPH.
People with disabilities could use more opportunities to compete in sports, and this is a great opportunity for many to do just that.
Though the team consists primarily of sightless individuals, the UC Berkeley team features one sighted player, as allowed by standard US rules. To even things out, all players wear blacked-out eyeshades so they can’t see anything. The court boundaries are made with tape and twine so that players can feel their location on the court.
“For sure, the first time you play it’s scary. It’s easy to get disoriented,” said Jessica Adams, the aforementioned sighted player.
Unlike other sports where things can be as loud as they can, goalball is quiet so the players can hear the ball.
One of the team’s biggest fans is chancellor Nicholas Dirks. “I have no doubt others will follow our lead and that our team will soon have no shortage of worthy opponents,” he told Disability Scoop.
Portland State University and California State University, Long Beach are looking into fielding goalball teams. Until that happens, the Golden Bears will have to play other Paralympic clubs with more experienced players.
However, Matt Grigorieff, a graduate student and founder of the University’s Athletics for All, hoped that more universities could field a team and it could become an NCAA-sanctioned sport. “It’s easy to say it’s going to be too complicated, that we don’t have the infrastructure. But we went from one class to three classes with a competitive team, and it really didn’t cost much,” he said, “We’re showing that it can be done.”
About the Author:
Paul Chancey is an Intern at JJsList.com, where he frequently researches the latest news in the disability-awareness movement and aids the Marketing team with social media engagement. If there is something you’d like Paul to address in a future blog, let him know at firstname.lastname@example.org.