Q: What IS Goalball?
A: Goalball is a highly competitive sport played three-against-three, indoors on a gym floor--primarily by blind and visually impaired athletes.
Games are usually quite competitive and exciting to watch. Two teams play on either end of the 60x40 foot court. Players are blindfolded to make the game fair. The object is to throw a three-pound Goalball, which is sort of like a heavy basketball, past the opposing team.
Now you may be asking yourself, "how do the players keep track of the ball if they're blind?" The ball has bells in it... sounding a lot like Christmas "jingle bells..." that allow the players to listen for it. When they hear the ball coming towards their end of the court, they dive, usually head-first, towards it hoping to block it with their body and stop it. If all three players miss the ball and it goes past the back line, it is considered a goal. The team with the most goals wins the game.
Q: What is A Goalball?
A Goalball is about the size of a basketball, but a bit more solid. It's heavier, and sturdier. It weighs about three pounds. It's hollow and has bells inside. It has some airholes so you can hear the bells jingling as it rolls or bounces.
Q: How do you play Goalball?
A: See the answer to the question, "What IS Goalball" above, for a description of the game. Otherwise, some informal details about the game are...
* You will wear elbow pads and knee pads to protect yourself, due to the nature of this competitive sport. You will be diving for the ball and throwing yourself down on the floor to block the rolling ball, sometimes. If you've never done things such as this, don't worry too much. You'll most likely end up loving the game, and the competition. It's a great and exhilarating game!
* There are three members on a team. Two wing-men, and a center. The three members of each team are positioned at the opposite ends of the court, facing each other. Each team forms a bit of a triangle form, meaning that the two wing-men are in back, near the goal line, and at each corner of the court. the Center is just that... in the center and a bit closer to the other team than the two wing-men. They basically form the 3-points of a triangle.
* When the ball is thrown towards you, if you hear it coming, you block and stop it, using your body. Generally you'll jump in front of the approaching ball, laying on your side, length-wise, to form a barrier. Now, the ball can bounce over you, or miss you completely, so you have got to be alert! It can get to be a very fast-paced and thrilling game. You'd get the ball and jump up and roll it or throw it back at them to try to get a goal.
* Generally, the trick is to have the ball make as little noise as possible. So if you've ever bowled, this is a great way to throw the ball at the other team. No bouncing means less noise to help locate the ball.
Q: Who can play Goalball?
A: Just about everyone. Boys and girls, men and women. If you are blind or visually impaired, you can play Goalball in the USA!
In local community games and even Goalball games between various teams within a state, mixed leagues are playing right now. boys and girls, men and women, all mixed. IF you want to play, you certainly can.
Some of the more standardized programs around the country, such as in the state of Michigan, have enough players already so that they have seperate teams for girls and boys, and for men and women. Not all states are like this though. Some states, such as the state of Ohio, are so new to introducing the sport of Goalball to it's residents, that in the beginning, there are going to be mixed games being played.
As we said, for Goalball, the only real criteria is that you are blind or visually impaired. Although, again sometimes with newer programs still starting out, sighted persons who are interested in playing may also get a chance to play in the localized games.
People such as the parents or siblings of a blind child might play the game with them, or perhaps if you wanted to volunteer your time to help out a program in your area, you might also get some play time in, if you want it.
But for the official competitions, here in the USA, it's restricted to the blind and visually impaired. Please read our "Who Can Play" page for more details.
Q: What are the benefits of playing Goalball?
A: Well, it gets you out of the house, to start with... and you'll get to meet other blind and visually impaired persons in your community.
It also can help blind children and youths develop muscles and parts of their bodies that all too often don't get the exercise and use that they were meant to.
Many blind children are not encouraged to strive and thrive as their sighted peers often are. By exercising, whether it be Goalball, (tandem) cycling, or just running around, they use muscles that, left undeveloped, can lead to physical problems as adults.
It helps you gain coordination, and helps develop your sense of direction, and, due to being blindfolded if you have ANY sight, also forces you to focus on your other senses--which helps to sharpen them.
It also helps to build confidence. For a blind child or even a blind adult, coming to the realization that, "Hey, I CAN do that!" is an empowering thing. It's an awesome feeling that motivates and excites.
So whether you are a blind child or a visually impaired adult... come on and give it a try. You just might find a new love!
Q: Is Goalball played in other countries?
A: Yes, definitely. Goalball is an International Paralympic sport. It has been around for several decades, and is played in more than 100 countries. Goalball is played in the USA, the UK, Sweden, Germany, Australia, and in numerous other countries around the world.
Q: What kind of equipment is needed to play Goalball?
A: Well, as a single player, you might want to get your own elbow and knee pads. Some players get optional equipment, such as hip pads like hockey goalies wear, fingerless gloves, and bicycling-type helmets. But these are optional. Elbow and knee pads are pretty much a necessity.
Some teams have extras for you to wear during practice, but if you want to play regularly, you might want to get your own equipment. It is recommended.
The team should have the Goalballs. Some players do get their own Goalball, though, to practice their throws more often than the team may meet for practices.
If you want equipment or a Goalball, check out our Resources section. There are links to several sources there for you.
Q: What are the "Paralympics?"
A: The Paralympic Games are the second largest sporting event in the world, conceding top honors only to the Olympics. The multi-sport competition showcases the talents and abilities of the world's most elite athletes with physical disabilities. The Paralympics feature 21 sports--of which Goalball is one, and 18 of which are also contested in the Olympics.
The first Paralympics were held in 1960 in Rome, Italy. Only 400 athletes from 23 countries participated. It wasn't until the 1988 Paralympics in Seoul, Korea, that the modern-day practice of the Olympic-host nation also hosted the Paralympic Games. Today more than 4,000 athletes from 120 countries participate in the Summer Paralympics, while more than 1,100 athletes from 36 countries compete in the Winter Paralympic Games.
The United States is the host of the most recent Winter Games in Salt Lake City. The next Summer Paralympics will be in 2004 in Athens, Greece, while the next Winter Paralympics will be in Torino, Italy in 2006.