Player rolls ball

Goalball: a sport you’ve likely never heard of – where spectators largely won’t be heard

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Goalball: a sport you’ve likely never heard of – where spectators largely won’t be heard

By Steve Carr — Posted Jan. 12, 2017


Goalball: a sport you’ve likely never heard of – where spectators largely won’t be heard

‘One of the most difficult sports to explain’


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“The quiet definitely takes some getting used to,” said Jake Czechowski of Tucson, who coaches the women’s national goalball team that includes his wife, Lisa, a Team USA goalball athlete. “The fans at the Paralympic Games in Rio fell in love with the sport, but had a hard time keeping quiet. That’ll happen when you have 8,000 people in an arena. But what it does is build up the excitement and tension so when a goal is scored, people go nuts. There’s plenty of opportunity to hoot and holler.”

Originally developed in 1946 to help rehabilitate visually impaired veterans returning from World War II, goalball was first introduced to the world at the 1976 Paralympic Games in Toronto. The U.S. Men’s Goalball team won the silver medal and the women took the bronze at last summer’s Paralympic Games.

“It’s one of the most difficult sports to explain,” Czechowski said. “It’s not a hybrid of any mainstream sport. But the training is no different than with any other sport and level of play is equally intense.”

If you go

Twelve teams from Arizona, California, Utah and British Columbia will compete in the Ability360 tournament in both men’s and women’s divisions. The tournament, presented by the Fennemore Craig Foundation, is free. Action begins at 3 p.m. Friday, 8:15 a.m. Saturday and 8 a.m. Sunday at the Ability360 Sports & Fitness Center, 5031 E. Washington Street, Phoenix.

Games features three players on each team, a center and two wings, who also act as goalies. The court is lined with strings over tape to provide a tactile sensation “so players can orient themselves,” Czechowski said. “Each player positions himself or herself along the string and plays as close to the ground as they can, listening for the ball to be thrown in their direction.”

When players get a bead on the ball, they lay down on their sides and stretch out to block it.

The throwing motion is more like tossing a bowling ball or an underhanded softball style, “but they can build up plenty of speed,” Czechowski said. “People should expect an extremely fast-pace, highly creative and highly brutal sport. There’s no other way to put it when you’re throwing a ball 40 miles an hour at each other and trying to block it. It definitely causes collisions.”

For more information, go to www.ability360.org.