The very first athletes to play goalball were veterans who lost their sight fighting in World War II.
Today, the game is played all over the world, including on a court inside the rec center at Colorado School of Mines.
“I’ve heard it kind of described as a combination of dodgeball and soccer,” said grad student Brad Meyer.
Meyer helped organize a goalball tournament at the school Sunday afternoon.
“It is one of the only sports where a blind person and a sighted person can play side by side on the same playing field,” Meyer explained.
In goalball, teams of three compete on a volleyball-sized court with a net on either end. Players try to roll a ball filled with bells into the opposing team’s net. Defenders lay down on the court and stretch out their arms and legs to block the ball.
“All the lines on court are tactile,” Meyer said. “It’s literally like a piece of string or wire that’s covered up with tape.”
Players must be able to feel the court with their hands and listen for the sound of the bells inside the ball because they cannot rely on sight. All players wear blackout goggles.
“I’ve been playing it now for three and a half years,” Martin Becerra said.
Becerra works as a mobility instructor and youth services coordinator at the Colorado Center for the Blind where he was once a student himself.
“[I have] no sight in my left eye [and] very little usable in my right eye,” Becerra said.
Brad Meyer contacted Becerra to help teach students how to play the game. After some practice sessions, they held a tournament inside the rec center Sunday afternoon.
“It says a lot about the group of students here at this school and the fact that they’re interested in this sport, it seems pretty cool,” Becerra said.
Becerra loves that goalball is a competitive team sport that was not adapted, but designed for blind people. Like any sport, it attracts serious athletes.
“We just happen to be blind,” Becerra said. “We do everything as well as anybody else can. We just might do it a little bit differently.”
Goalball is also a Paralympic sport. The U.S. men’s goalball team took home the silver medal at the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. The women’s team took home bronze.