Kathryn Fielding has been awarded a British Empire Medal for her outstanding service to goalball and sports for blind and partially sighted people.
She has spent over 15 years tirelessly creating goalball opportunities for visually impaired people all over the country, helping to reduce isolation in this community by harnessing the power of team sport.
Kathryn has also been responsible for raising tens of thousands of pounds for Goalball UK, the charity and national governing body for the sport.
Speaking about the British Empire Medal, Kathryn said: “It is a real privilege to receive this award. I feel honoured that I get to spend each day with so many inspiring people of all ages across the country.
“For many years now, we have been making fantastic progress increasing the amount of opportunities there are to play goalball, introducing it to more blind or partially sighted people than I could have ever imagined 15 years ago.
“All too often, visually impaired people struggle to find challenging and enjoyable activities. This can be especially upsetting for those who lose their sight later in life. But goalball creates opportunities to connect with likeminded people all over the country that goes a long to reducing isolation.”
Mark Winder, chief executive of Goalball UK, said: “In Kathryn’s own words she is ‘a sighted person living in a blind world’. She has transformed the lives of thousands of visually impaired people and at Goalball UK we can’t think of anyone more deserving of such recognition than her.”
Kathryn started working for Disability Sport Yorkshire in 2003 as a Regional Resource Officer (Visual Impairments), before becoming the Great Britain goalball assistant coach to support the high-performance system.
In 2010, Kathryn began working with Goalball UK as an independent consultant and was part of the goalball officiating team at the London 2012 Paralympics.
Kathryn has led the development of goalball clubs across all home nations, overseeing the rise in the number of teams from 10 to 36. She also organised the first ever Goalball UK Home Nation competition in 2018.
Part of Kathryn’s role with Goalball UK has seen her progress the sports coaching qualification scheme, which she has delivered to over 2000 individuals. In addition, Kathryn has delivered visual awareness training to more than 1000 people.
Kathryn also manages fundraising events for Goalball UK. Most notably, she facilitated a coast to coast tandem bike ride with visually impaired participants that raised over £12,000.
Goalball, originally devised as a rehabilitation programme for injured soldiers returning from World War II, is a Paralympic team sport for blind and partially sighted people.
Since the sport was one of the hits of London 2012, with crowds cramming into the Copper Box to support the men and women’s teams, goalball has grown in popularity with numerous domestic tournaments taking place around the country during the season which runs from September to July.
The positive impact that involvement in the sport has for visually impaired people is documented in the video on the Goalball UK website at: www.goalballuk.com
Goalball is played by two teams of three players with a maximum of three substitutions on each team. The object of the game is to score a goal by bowling the ball along the floor so that it crosses the goal line of the opposing team.
It is open to both male and female visually impaired athletes, and sighted players can also play (below international level).
It has three main distinguishing features:
- All players wear eyeshades so that no one can see anything
- Goalball is played on an indoor court that is 18m long and 9m wide. The court has tactile markings (string that is taped to the floor), which helps players determine where they are
- The ball contains internal bells, which help players locate it during play