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Goalball helps visually impaired athletes flex their athletic muscles

Posted at 6:59 PM, May 28, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-28 19:06:29-04

Sports have a way of bringing people together. Whether it’s hockey, football or baseball, many find comfort in athletic competition. Unfortunately for many who are blind, being a part of a team isn’t always an option. That was until a unique sport started to make its way to the area.

Goalball is a Paralympic sport originally created for blind athletes. Players compete in teams of three to try and throw a ball into the opponent’s goal. The balls are embedded with bells and players on defense use their bodies to block the ball from rolling into their goal.

While the sport was designed for visually impaired athletes, at Towson University, anyone can get involved.

“We open it up to everyone,” said Jeff Keenan, the Assistant Director of Competitive Sports. “Whether you’re visually impaired or not visually impaired, it’s a sport that you can participate in.”

That’s because all athletes are blindfolded with blackout goggles. The goggles levels the playing field for everyone in the game.

“I was terrified,” said Rachael Talbert. “It’s very different from being completely sighted and then having no sight whatsoever and it’s completely black.”

It forces players to rely on other senses to get through the game.

“You rely so much on sight, it’s crazy when it’s completely taken away and you have to rely on hearing or touch,” said Talbert.

For visually impaired athletes, goalball is much more than just a sport.

Tim Utzig lost part of his vision when he was in the 7th grade. Prior to that, he used to play travel baseball, soccer, and basketball. He thought the thrill of playing a sport was gone forever. That was until he learned about goalball.

“I thought my outlet where I played travel soccer and baseball that was gone for the rest of my life,” said Utzig. “It was really cool to know that it was still there.”

Utzig and Muhammad Waheed, another student at Towson University came together to bring the sport to the university. They both learned about the sport at the Maryland School for the Blind and were excited to bring the sport to Towson.

“It was great because you’ve got to build relationships that were very meaningful, “ said Muhammad Waheed.

Players hope to continue to break the social barriers between sighted and visually impaired individuals.

“It’s just such an experience,” said Talbert. “I feel like sighted people need to have that experience of not having sight because you don’t realize what privilege you do have until it’s taken away from you”

The team recently wrapped up its second season and players are already looking forward to bringing another tournament to the school next year.