About the Game of Goalball
Goalball is a Paralympic Sport played exclusively by athletes who are blind or visually impaired.
Goalball teams consist of 6 members, with only 3 playing at a time.
There are three positions: center, right wing, and left wing. Some players can play multiple positions effectively. The game is played on a court measuring 9 X 18 m (same size as volleyball), with goals at either end spanning the entire 9 meter back-line.
All players must wear opaque eyeshades at all times ensuring that they cannot see anything regardless of their degree of visual impairment.
At the international level all players must be legally blind which means that they have less than 10% vision, and are classified as a B3, a B2, or a B1 – totally blind.
Since the players can’t see the markings on the court, all of the lines are applied by taping string to the floor. This creates tactile markings which the players can feel with their hands and feet to orient themselves on the court.
The game is played by “throwing” a Goalball along the surface of the court. The Goalball weighs 1.25 kg and is approximately 76 cm in circumference; it has minimal bounce, and bells inside. The players track the ball by listening for the sound of the bells and work together to block the net. The object of the game is to get the ball past the other team to score in their net.
At the National and Paralympic levels shots can exceed 60 km/h, considering the court is only 18 meters long, the defense does not have much time to react. Top-tier Goalball players can also throw curve shots, bouncing shots, and spin shots so even if the defense gets into position for where they think the ball will be, often it goes around or over the defender and into the net.
Games consist of two 12 minute halves with a 3 minute break at half time. Whoever scores the most goals wins, if there is a tie it will go on to sudden-death overtime, followed by penalty shots.
Goalball is unique in that only players on the court and referees may talk or make noise of any kind during play. Coaches, players on the bench, and spectators must remain silent to give the players the best opportunity possible to hear and locate the ball.
Upon first touching the ball on defense a team has only 10 seconds to throw it back or they will be penalized. There are a number of possible penalties in Goalball, all of which result in a penalty shot. For a penalty shot, the penalized player has to defend the entire 9 meter net by him/herself. It is not uncommon for games to have 5 penalties or more (especially in the men’s game) so penalty blocks, and penalty shots make up a considerable portion of the overall strategy.
Two important lines on the court are the high-ball lines which are situated 6 meters from each goal line. As the court is 18 meters long, the highball lines divide the court into 3 thirds. When a team is throwing, the ball must touch the ground before or on the first high ball line, and then again before the second high ball line. If the ball touches the ground after the first high ball line it is a “high-ball” which results in a penalty shot. If the ball touches the ground before the first high ball line but bounces and does not touch the ground again before the second high ball line it is a “long-ball,” which also results in a penalty shot.
Some common penalties include: high ball, long ball, ten second violation, excessive noise violation, delay of game, and touching one’s eyeshades. The sport requires 2 referees, as well as 7 minor officials to hold a single Goalball game: 4 goal-judges at the corners to verify if the ball scores as well as retrieve the ball when it goes out of bounds, 1 timer, 1 10-second timer.
The BC Men’s goalball team are currently the national goalball champions and the Women’s team are ranked second.
Goalball was invented in 1946 in an effort to rehabilitate veterans of the Second World War who had lost their sight.The game was invented by an Austrian named Hans Laurenzen and a German named Sett Randlem.
Goalball was introduced to the Paralympics as a demonstration sport at the 1976 Games in Toronto, Canada and has been in every Paralympic Games since. The first World Championships for Goalball were held two years later in Vocklamarck, Austria in 1978. The World Championships happen every four years in between Paralympics, the next World Championships will be in 2010 in England.
Women’s Goalball was introduced at the 1984 Paralympic Games in New York, and has been part of every Paralympic Games since. Goalball has grown in popularity over the years, now there are many regional, national, and international Goalball tournaments on all 5 continents throughout the world.
The Canadian Women’s Goalball Team won the 2006 World Championships in Spartanburg, USA. They were also the back-to-back \ Paralympic Gold medalists having won in 2000 in Sydney, Australia, and in 2004 in Athens, Greece. The Canadian Men most recently won the Silver Medal at the 1996 Games in Atlanta, Georgia.