Bowling Green Parks and Rec introduces Goalball as part of Adaptive Sports Program

BOWLING GREEN, Ky. – The Bowling Green Parks and Rec department’s Adaptive Sports Program was introduced to provide opportunities to people with disabilities to play sports they love, just in an altered way.

Wheelchair basketball and wheelchair tennis are already among the sports offered, but now they’ve introduced a third sport – goalball.

It’s a sport that requires you to rely on solely hearing and touch, but no sight.

“There’s not too many sports where people who are blind of visually impaired can play on a team,” said Sydney Clark, a visually impaired participant.

Goalball is a sport where two teams of three players on each side play within the lines of a volleyball court. Two of the players are lined up along the back line, with the third in front of them, essentially forming a triangle. The primary objective is to get the ball rolled past your opponents’ end line in order to score a goal. The catch, though, is that no one can see, with each player wearing specifically designed blackout goggles.

“You don’t have your sight,” said Cameron Levis, Special Populations Coordinator for the Bowling Green Parks and Rec. “You’re required to use your touch, use your hearing, all those other sense to play a sport. It’s so foreign to us.”

Foreign to people with good eyesight, yes. But not so foreign to siblings Sydney and Austin Clark, who both deal with visual impairments, unable to play the same kind of sports as kids without those disabilities.

“This sport where I’m on an equal playing field with everybody is kind of nice,” said Austin Clark.

The ball they use is specially designed, almost like a giant cat toy. The rubber ball, roughly the size of a women’s-sized basketball, has bells inside of it and weighs just under three pounds, but it certainly doesn’t look that way to the naked eye.

“It’s a heavy piece of equipment,” Levis said. “It’s not what people expect when they think of goalball.”

The game is a lot more complicated than just trying to roll the ball past the opposing goal line. Several strategies are employed among teammates, with certain numbers of foot taps, etc. used to communicate plans with each other, all the while not giving away to their opponents where they plan on rolling the ball.

The new sport takes place every Sunday from 4:30-5:30 p.m. inside Kummer-Little Rec Center. It’s free and open to all, especially to people who want to understand better what it’s like to go through live with unclear vision.

“It’s really cool to allow everybody in this community to that,” said Levis. “It’s cool to see Sydney and Austin see other people experiencing that for the first time and seeing what their life is like on a daily basis.”