Goalball is one of those things that I might never have heard of if we weren’t on the journey of a blind child.
Goalball is a Paralympic team sport designed specifically for blind and visually impaired athletes. Participants compete in teams of three, and try to throw a ball that has bells embedded in it into the opponents’ goal. Teams alternate throwing or rolling the ball from one end of the playing area to the other, and players remain in the area of their own goal in both defence and attack. Players must use the sound of the bell to judge the position and movement of the ball. Eyeshades are worn by all to ensure those who are partially sighted do not have an advantage. Read more on the Goalball UK site and Wikipedia.
When Ronan was about 9 months, we came across an article for about the Cambridge Dons goalball team in our local paper. It made me realise that we knew nothing about the sports Ronan would play. We decided that it was an important bonding experience for father and son to play sports together. That meant Niki would have to learn to play goalball. While the local team was a bit surprised, they welcomed us in to practices and all of their social events. Not only is goalball good exercise for a new father with little time for himself, it gave us insight into the lives of people who are blind or visually impaired. It was a real relief to see what normal lives they had. The young ones were worried about a first job or their university course, the older ones seem to have established lives not so different from ours.
Ronan only became interested in goalball last week. Below is the description of his first play with a goalball that I did for Niki’s teammates. This gave us one of the many smiles we’ve had this year with our child.
Ronan has had a goalball for several months, but only took an interest it a few days ago. He has just learn that there is a world beyond his finger tips and has been rolling around to see what he finds. He rolled into the goalball a few days ago and laughed when he heard the bell tinkle.
He got his finger into one of the holes and tried to pick it up. Having made several attempts and increasingly strained grunts, he decided to roll so that he could reach it with two hands. At this point he had himself wrapped around the ball, like a piece of bacon around melon. He started hitting it so that the bells would ring, but after awhile he decided to try and pick up again. With a great ahhhhh, he rolled onto his back and got the ball onto his stomach. The ball is so big compared to Ronan that is stretches from his hips all the way to his chin. It is almost twice the size of his head. He was so pleased with himself that he started laughing and shaking the ball intensely for several minutes. He was so tired afterwards, he fell asleep!!!