A group of 10 to 16-year-olds, with a range of visual impairments, gathered in Hereford to undertake a masterclass in the Paralympic sport of goalball.
Goalball is a fully inclusive sport where players wear eyeshades allowing all levels of sight to participate. Two teams of three players aim to get a ball containing bells across their opponents’ goal, while defending their own.
The youngsters attended Goalball UK’s summer camp at RNC in Hereford for three days developed skills for both on and off the court. The camp was supported by volunteers from Winchester and RNC goalball clubs and the players received expert coaching from Great Britain star Kali Holder.
The conclusion of the three days saw competitive games in front of parents and Goalball UK staff to demonstrate what they had learnt – from technical attributes to teamwork and communication skills.
The summer camp was part of Goalball UK’s National Schools Programme, which launched late last year with a grant of nearly £100k from Children in Need. The initiative delivers afterschool goalball activities and competitive opportunities to blind, partially sighted and disadvantaged children and young people.
Stephen Newey, Goalball UK’s National Schools Officer, who was part of the team that delivered the summer camp, said: “It was a fantastic to have so many engaged young people come to our summer camp ready to develop their goalball skills. They have all embraced goalball and showed great enthusiasm and progress across the three days.
“At Goalball UK, we are providing one of the few programmes that is specifically tailored for people with a visual impairment. We feel that it is a vital service for those that are blind and partially sighted as they remain under represented in terms of engagement with sport and physical activity.
“The summer camp isn’t just about getting better at goalball though. We use the sport to help develop their confidence and social skills. It was great to see all the kids leave Hereford having made new friends.
“Regularly visually impaired communities can be restricted from having the same opportunities to participate in a variety of sports that their peers have. It is a sad reality that all too often this can go beyond the physical benefits that playing sport undoubtedly delivers, with many visually impaired young people experiencing isolation.
“We know first-hand from the goalball communities across the UK and the students we have engaged with on this programme, by harnessing the positive impact of team sports and the comradery that is associated with it, it can help to reduce many of negative effects and cultivate positive ones. In countless cases it goes much further and significantly improves their quality of life and wellbeing.”