Brooke Army Medical Center hosts Warrior Transition Batallion goalball tournament

Nov. 06, 2009, 1:19 p.m. (ET)

SAN ANTONIO, Texas--The second annual Brooke Army Medical Center Warrior Transition Battalion (WTB) Goalball Tournament was played at the Center Post Gym on Oct 27th, wounded Warriors and WTB staff members relied on their hearing and touch, rather than their sight to score goals.

Stars of the day included 5-time U.S. Paralympian Jen Armbruster and WTB-BAMC Warriors. Jen Armbruster is a 2008 Paralympic gold medalist for the sport.  She began her visit by hosting a clinic for Warriors and staff the Monday prior to the tournament. 

Eighteen teams competed in a game that requires a keen sense of hearing. The game is played in complete silence and players are required to wear goggles to impair their sight. The two Marine teams participating held strong throughout the tournament almost making it to the finals. 

Three-person teams consist of a center and two wingers; players try to roll a ball embedded with bells into the opponents' goal. By using the sound of the bell, players judge the position and movement of the ball. Limited 'time-outs' were granted to allow the rest of the team members a chance to play.

Games consisted of two 5-minute halves, with all players wearing blacked-out goggles to allow sighted players to compete on an equal footing with blind players. The game is challenging enough to require medics to be on site. Two referees were invited to assist in keeping all players in check and avoid any possible biased calls.

Due to time constraints, single elimination was used to determine top three best teams. The tournament began at 10:00 a.m.; six hours later the competition was finally winding down. In the finals, were four teams: Step Children, HHD, Pain Killers and Command Suite.   Three of the four teams were returns from last year's finalists, returning to reclaim their titles. 

In weeks leading up to the tournament, the Step-Children strategized and worked on some new and improved "secret" moves. They planned on taking home the gold again banking on an easy win against their new opponent; however, they placed 2nd this time.

Several of the final games went into overtime, and the scores were a firm display of the competition.  The final scores were low.  Players handling the ball would return the ball as soon as it was thrown in an attempt to score while the other team was setting up. Each score would get a quiet cheer from the crowd.

Being 1st last year wasn't enough for the win. The Pain Killers walked away with the gold medal. Step-Children placed second for the silver; Command Suite third for the bronze.  We absolutely hope they will be back next year to defend their titles. 

Goalball, a team sport designed for athletes with blindness or visual impairment, was played to encourage unit cohesion between wounded Warriors and WTB supporting staff, said Lt. Col. John Myers, WTB commander.

An established ongoing quarterly Warrior and staff athletic competition continues at the WTB, which started in April 2008. The tournament was part of the quarterly program designed by the WTB to promote esprit de corps. There are six training opportunities prior to each event at specified locations for staff and Warriors.

Part of the cohesion began with this tournament in a united effort between the WTB, Armbruster and Mandy Goff of Lakeshore Foundation and John Register of U.S. Paralympics. 

Armbruster, and Goff taught the more than 100 participants the sport of goalball, provided training clinics, helped officiate the games and set-up the tournament.

The Warrior Transition Battalion has partnered with the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) Paralympic Military Program to enhance and promote BAMC's sporting programs for wounded Warriors.

The USOC Paralympic Military Program provides post-rehabilitation support and mentoring to American service men and women who've sustained physical injuries such as traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injury, amputation, visual impairment/blindness and stroke. Veterans are introduced to adaptive sport techniques and opportunities through clinics and camps and are also connected with ongoing Paralympic sports programs in their hometowns. Selected sporting events have been identified so that Warriors, staff and Families can participate together despite medical limitations.

Fort Sam Houston Morale, Welfare and Recreation, WTB Family Readiness Group and the Warrior Family Support Center sponsored the event.