The Story of Goalball

Like their visually intact counterparts, visually impaired athletes demonstrating high strength, aerobic capacity, flexibility, and balance skills compared to non-active visually impaired individuals. There are many adapted sports programs available for the blind and partially sighted population.

Types of activities can range from individual professional sports (e.g., running, golf, swimming) to team sports (e.g., football, goalball, rowing, sailing), and other cognitive and competitive sports. The International Blind Sports Association (IBSA)is the leading organization that is responsible for the full range of games for visually impaired and blind athletes.

Out of all other activities designated for blind individuals, goalball is considered the most popular and unique sport for athletes with visual impairment. The sport was designed exclusively for the visually impaired and the blind, and it was shown to provide a potential platform for these individuals to enhance their physical and motor skills. During World War ΙΙ, goalball was explicitly invented for rehabilitation purposes for wounded soldiers and veterans.

Goalball is a Paralympic sport first introduced at the Summer Paralympic Games hosted in Toronto, Canada in 1976. The game requires a special court that is designed to increase physical activity participation based on auditory and tactile perceptions. The field is 18 x 9 meters with two goal bars on each long end and the court borders marked with raised lines on the floor.

The game consists of two teams with three players positioned on opposite sides of the court. The game is a non-territorial invasion sport that consists of attack and defense phases. The attacking team seeks to score a goal from a restricted space toward the opponents’ goal. The defense team should respond to the oncoming ball by sliding on the floor.

During the game, all players must wear eye masks that block any possible vision. Thus, the orientation and spatial skills of the players on the court rely on various other clues cues. For instance, the ball is embedded with bells providing an auditory stimulus, while the goalpost and the raised line-markings provide tactile spatial information.

In goalball, there are two types of players’ positions: one center and two wingers. Players’ responsibilities are primarily determined by their played positions. For example, the wingers are shown to be more involved in the attacking and throwing sequence, while the center players defend more frequently than their teammates. During a defense phase, all players dive together according to the ball location and direction in an attempt to cover as much of the goal line area as possible. Attackers seek to aim their throws at weaker points on the defensive side.

In tournaments, athletes’ participation requires adherence to classification rules that ensure equality. These rules regulate the eligibility of an athlete or a group of athletes to compete. For example, in goalball, the athlete’s visual impairment is determined by a classification system.

This system is divided into three classes: B1- low visual acuity and no light perception, B2- visual acuity of 2/60 or a visual field of fewer than 5 degrees, B3- visual acuity range from 2/60- 6/60 or a visual field of fewer than 20 degrees. Therefore, athletes who participate in international events are obligated to be classified in one of the above categories.

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