Imagine its 1946, World War II is ongoing still, and you’re visually impaired. Blindness may not be your only health issue and you’re likely never to serve in combat ever again without rehabilitation. A fella by the name of Sepp Reindle from Germany along with another fella named Hans Lorenzen from Austria came up with the idea of a game where you could throw a three and a half pound ball (about the same size as a men’s basketball) the length of a volleyball court past three defenders into a net and also blindfolded! The net stands 4 feet high and extends the full width of the court. Who knew that concept would later become an international haven for athletes looking to regain a competitive drive?
These gentlemen called this brilliant concept goalball. Goalball is a completely auditory game where both blind and visually impaired athletes are blindfolded with eyeshades which look similar to ski goggles blacked out so you can’t see. You may be tempted to touch them during a game if you do have sight but don’t because if an official sees you, you’ll commit a penalty! The game caught on so well after WWII, it became a paralympic sport in the 1776 Summer Games as a demonstration event. Two years later, goalball saw its first World Championships held in Hans’ backyard of Austria, and when the Summer Games came to the Netherlands in 1980, it was a full-fledged paralympic sport.
The U.S. Men’s and Women’s teams have experienced paralympic success in recent years. The men earned bronze in the 2004 Athens games, and the women struck gold in Beijing 2008 – one of the best gold medal matches I’ve ever seen! Both teams are looking to build on past success in Rio 2016 after setbacks in 2012. The men failed to qualify for London and the women were ousted in quarterfinal play. Amanda Dennis and Matt Simpson are former CVI STARS students and play internationally.
Matt’s dad Hal Simpson started goalball in Atlanta in 2003 or so, and during the team’s first youth tournament it ended in a loss for Atlanta. I was introduced to goalball by a former CVI STARS employee in 2005 and simply kept showing up. At that time, we only had a youth team which since that time has finished as high as a silver medal in the prestigious Youth National Tournament back in 2007. I was not on that team. Atlanta started adult competition in 2005 working its way to becoming a perennial contender for a national title. Well after two consecutive years of finishing bronze in 2009 and 2010, the team now known as The Atlanta Force saw its very first tournament win – a national championship in 2011! I was proud to reach the top of the national scene with Matt since we started out almost at the same time. It meant a lot to me that my coach Hal Simpson was there with me too so winning with those two was very special to me.
National Championship Team
Since that year, a women’s team has been developed and is looking to compete in its first adult tournament this spring. We’ve also developed a second Men’s team looking to compete around the same time. Thanks to the sport, I’ve traveled to many places I’ve never been before. I’ll never forget St. Augustine, Florida because it was the place I played and won my first goalball match. Or Colorado Springs where we won our first adult medal at a Nationals Tournament there. I’ll never forget earning silver our first time, in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Brockport, New York will be in my heart for the rest of my life – that’s where we won the National Title. Those are just a few places I’ve been among many and I’m still finding myself traveling to cities for the very first time! I’m also fond of the “community environment” you can experience at a tournament. If you would like to see this amazing game in action, feel free to come to a practice at Coan Park on Saturday mornings from 9 a.m. until noon. Coan Park is located in Midtown Atlanta.
Check out the video below. This footage is of a game that was protested between us and our rival Pennsylvania – a rival of ours.To catch more Atlanta Goalball on video, subscribe to goalballvideos on YouTube.
For additional information about Goalball check out this resource: