Sport for Blind Athletes Offers Leadership Opportunity
Posted on 04/27/2023

Thanks to a CK High student, a class and the district are learning about a sport considered the most popular team sport for the blind and visually impaired, according to the U.S. Association of Blind Athletes.

On a recent school day, classmates surrounded sophomore Ryleigh, who is blind, as she offered suggestions as they prepared to play.

Ryleigh’s classmates had first heard of Goalball when she mentioned it to her fourth period class.

“None of us had ever heard of it,” said teacher Patrick Leonard.

Introducing Goalball

A student clutches a ball, stopping it before it crosses the goal line, as another student stretches for the ball.

Ryleigh has been playing since elementary school. “It’s super fun,” she said. And she explained the sport as her class watched a video.

Goalball is a three-on-three game. All players, regardless of visual ability, wear eyeshades. They roll a hard but light ball, about the size of a basketball, with a bell inside. The court is divided into sections with raised boundaries, made with rope taped to the ground. Players bowl the ball across the court while the opposing team’s members sit or stretch out on the ground to stop it from crossing the goal line.

After Ryleigh mentioned the game in class, Leonard collaborated with vision specialists from the Olympic Educational Service District. They were able to borrow equipment and a rulebook from the Northwest Association of Blind Athletes.

Learning Opportunity for All

Ryleigh's classmates stand in a circle as she offers Goalball tips

It’s been a good social learning opportunity for the whole class, which includes students with sight, said Leonard.

“Ryleigh is able to take the lead and be the coach,” Leonard said.

So for their lunchtime class period, students donned eyeshades and played. The court was quiet as players listened for the ball and stretched to and fro as they tried to stop it -- with varying success.

“I think it’s cool to use my other senses to find out where the ball is,” said classmate Sam. She scored two goals early in the first half of the game.

Ryleigh’s team ended up winning. By a lot. But both teams seemed to have fun.

“I’m used to playing with blind people who have played the sport before, or at least heard of it,” Ryleigh said. “It’s kind of new to get to play with not-blind people, but it’s still super fun, and they all have learned really fast.”

Want to know more about Goalball? 

Volunteers who are interested in supporting blind athletes and learning more about goalball can attend goalball clinics offered for free through the Northwest Association for Blind Athletes. They offer regional events and summer camps for adapted physical activities such as kayaking, goalball, beep basketball, swimming, skiing, and many other sports.

Volunteer for Northwest Association for Blind Athletes