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By Dian Heil

(The following information was taken from the book Goalball, by Eugenia Kriebel and Joe R. Dominquez and an article written by Stephen Kearney and Rosanna Copeland.)

Because of the recent mainstreaming of visually impaired children into the public schools, physical educators are constantly looking for new ways to involve these children in their classes on an equal basis with the other children. Goalball places the visually impaired child on equal terms and gives them the chance to be "part of the group." The game takes little equipment and helps all children with tracking, spatial awareness, orientation, coordination, and teamwork.


Goalball was developed following World War II as a rehabilitative activity for newly blinded veterans. Several European countries claimed its origin...Belgium, Austria, and Germany. The European countries have been involved with the game since the mid 1940's. The game was designed specifically for the blind to help them gain skills necessary to a newly visually impaired person.


The game can briefly be described as an indoor court game for the visually impaired. It is played on an indoor court about the size of a volleyball court. The actual court measures eighteen (18) meters by nine (9) meters for both men’s and women's play. The entire end line (9 meters in width - approximately 30 feet) is the goal area.

Goalball is a completely auditory and tactile game and therefore uses two channels of input that are develop by the players. The bells inside the ball are the auditory cues to its location. The raised tape marks on the floor provide the tactile feedback for orientation. Canada uses textured tape. The game itself, and certainly many activities devised using the ball and a blindfold, could be used to train the general auditory and tactile skills in a unique way.


An official goalball used for competition is made up of a rubber substance and resembles a cross between a basketball and a medicine ball. Bells are inside the ball and there are small round openings in its surface to let the sound escape. A smaller and lighter ball was used for women and a heavier ball for men was used prior to 1990 for official competition. Now a unisex ball is used. It weighs about four pounds and can be purchased for approximately $70.00. They can be purchased through SportsVision by calling (412) 441-4940.

The only equipment required for the game of goalball is a blindfold which makes all competitors, in effect, totally blind. Good auditory skills are, therefore, required to hear the bells in the ball coming toward you from the opponents court. Officials ensure that the blindfolds are properly positioned on each player on the court. Players on the bench are no longer required to be blindfolded.

Any safety equipment used must be approved by the officials. Safety equipment that is normally used includes padding on all joint areas such as knees, hips, and elbows. Some players like to wear gloves on their sliding side. Face masks have been worn and mouth guards have been used when necessary. Each player is responsible for his own kind of protection. Most players use football pants and girdle, hockey pants or baseball pants.


Six (6) players make up the team with any three being allowed on the court at once. The other three (3) players are on the bench with the coach. The coach may not communicate with the team on the floor except at time out, half time, or through substitution. Remaining silent is often the most difficult part of the coach’s assignment.

The three (3) players on either end of the court (from opposing teams) all defend their goal and try to score against the opponents. A goal is declared when the ball passes over the goal line, regardless of which team touched the ball last. Any time the ball passes over the goal line it is scored as one point. If the ball rolls over the corner of the goal line and any part of the sideline, the ball is considered out of bounds and is not counted as a goal. The participants are confined to the ‘player area’ or 'team area' (marked by tape on the floor to give a tactile boundary) for all defensive procedures. On offense, players may go into the throwing area as long as the ball actually does land in the proper area. The thrower must then retreat to the players area for defensive maneuvers. Players must always refer to the tape markings to be certain they are located in their proper positions. Orientation skills are absolutely essential for effective play. The game consist of two ten-minute halves.


Excellent goalball players come from a group of elite blind and visually impaired athletes who are very strong, quick and agile, with supersensitive ears and healthy bones. Basic physical requirements include a good level of cardiovascular fitness, strength, flexibility, muscular endurance, body composition (lean to fat ratio) and general athletic skills. Beyond that, sound localization, tracking skills, anticipatory skills and the ability to move quickly from a correct defensive position to an offensive position is very important. Finally all of this training, individual skill, and talent must be put into a team effort.




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