Goal Ball lets visually impaired get in on the action

October 21, 2010 (DOWNERS GROVE, Ill.)

Goal Ball is a fast-paced and physically active sport that requires a lot of listening and good judgment.

At SEASPAR, South East Association for Parks and Recreation in Downers Grove, athletes who are blind and visually impaired practice Goal Ball.

"It's a real simple game," said rec specialist Greg Pavesich. "You just try and block the ball. Three-on-three. You try and block the ball from the other team, and you have 10 seconds to jump up and return a scoring shot. And then the other team tries to block it. It's two 10-minute halves."

In addition to a special ball that has bells, the court has to be adapted, says executive director Susan Friend.

"You need a 18-by-9 meter court," said Friend. "You can use any type of gymnasium space or any flat area. You need goals -- which, actually, Greg our coach and coordinator for this sport built the goals themselves -- you need some tape and some texture to put under the tape to make the court."

"And you need some protective equipment, because it's very active and they're on the floor a lot," Pavesich said. "It's not required, but it is highly recommended, and it typical in the sport for all that equipment to be worn."

Although Goal Ball has been around for more than 30 years, special recreation programs have been offered in this sport in the last few years.

"We're in the process of recruiting and creating more teams. There are international competitions, and the players can be any age," said Pavesich.

James Johnson is 16 years old.

"I just like Goal Ball because, No. 1 it's fun; No. 2, just because I have a vision problem and I probably have the worst vision here," said Johnson ."This is one of the few sports I'm actually able to participate in."

Fourteen-year-old Colin Feely loves this sport.

"We can actually play by skill, where as we can't do that in other sports," Feely said.

Alex Ayala has been playing Goal Ball for two years. He is 9 years old.

"I like the challenge of not being able to see and having to listen, and I get to meet other kids that have visual impairments like I do," said Ayala.

Goal Ball has been a Paralympics sport since 1980.

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