Member of Team USA Competes in Paralympic GoalballMember of Team USA Competes in Paralympic Goalball

Goalball

The sport of goalball was created in 1946 to help rehabilitate returning WWII veterans with vision loss.

Goalball is played on a standard volleyball court (without the central net) by two teams of three people. Each team attempts to score by rolling a hard rubber ball across the court and into the opposing team’s goal. The opposing players may block the ball with their bodies, so gameplay often consists of one team rolling the ball and the other team immediately dropping to the floor and stretching out as far as possible to block the path of the ball. Each athlete wears a blindfold and uses a variety of senses—namely touch and hearing—to make their way around the court and respond to the ball and their teammates.

Anyone who has watched a match may notice a stark difference from other Paralympic sports—that is, no cheers or applause during play. This is because the athletes must listen for bells tinkling inside the ball to know where it is on the court.

Goalball is the only team sport available to women with visual impairments in the Paralympic Games.

 

TIMELINE

1946
Goalball invented in Austria

1972
Goalball debuts as a demonstration sport at the Heidelberg Paralympic Games

1976
Goalball (men’s tournament) debuts as a medal sport at the Toronto Paralympic Games

1978
First IBSA Goalball World Championships (men’s) held in Austria

1982
Women’s goalball added to the World Championships program

1984
Women’s goalball added to the Paralympic program at the New York/Stoke Mandeville Games

EVENTS

Goalball is played in a tournament format: one tournament for men and one tournament for women. Each game consists of two halves of 12 minutes each.

EQUIPMENT

A goalball ball is the size of a basketball and twice the weight, with bells inside it to help athletes hear its location. All athletes wear blindfolds while in competition.

Goalball is played on a volleyball court (without the central net) with tactile markings so players can figure out their location and the direction they’re facing. Each goal is 9 meters (30 feet) wide and 1.3 meters (4 feet) high.

FAST FACTS

Listen carefully: Goalball is played in silence, and bells inside the ball help to orient the players.

USA! USA! The U.S. women’s goalball team enters the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games on top of the world, having won the 2014 World Championships in Finland.

Driving speed: Top goalball players whip the ball at speeds of 60 miles per hour.

Overtime: Games that end in a tie are resolved in overtime consisting of two halves of three minutes, or until a goal is scored. If necessary, players may take extra throws (equivalent to a penalty shoot-out).

Coed in sync: The only year that both men and women of Team USA stood on top of the Paralympic goalball podium was at the New York/Stoke Mandeville 1984 Paralympic Games.

Athlete Spotlight:

Amanda Dennis

Born with aniridiaDefinition: An eye disorder characterized by the absence of the colored part of the eye (iris); it can cause reduced visual acuity and sensitivity to light. and nystagmusDefinition: An eye disorder characterized by involuntary eye movements, often resulting in reduced vision., Amanda Dennis learned to play goalball at age seven while attending a sport education camp in her home state of Georgia. She immediately loved the game, as all competitors wore blindfolds and those with varying degrees of vision loss were put on equal footing. Three years later, she was competing in goalball tournaments across the country. At age 10, she competed in her first Youth National Goalball Championships, and at age 15 she was invited to try out for the International Blind Sports Association (IBSA) World Youth and Student Games competition in Colorado Springs—and she's been unstoppable ever since.

At age 18, Dennis made the U.S. Paralympic Team to compete in the London 2012 Paralympic Games. Team USA placed sixth, but Dennis walked away with a full heart, a more thorough understanding of the true meaning of teamwork and a desire to grow both personally and as an athlete.

Since London, Dennis has been hard at work training and competing internationally. Her team took gold in the 2013 U.S. Championships and then gold at the 2014 IBSA World Championships—where Dennis scored half of Team USA's goals. In fact, her team has earned almost a dozen gold and silver medals since the London Paralympic Games. With the taste of victory fresh in her mind, and four more years of experience in the sport of goalball, Dennis and Team USA are ready to take on whatever the competition throws at them.

Althete Spotlight Amanda Dennis

CLASSIFICATION

Paralympic goalball competition is open to male and female athletes with visual impairments.  Read more about athletes with visual impairments in the Paralympic Games. 

Physical Impairment

Visual Impairment

Intellectual Impairment

Goalball is one of the few Paralympic sports with only one sport class. All athletes must have a visual impairment but beyond qualifying for Paralympic competition, severity does not matter. During competition, all athletes wear a blindfold to ensure an even playing field.

B

B

Impairment Severity Scale

UnaffectedMildModerateSevereNonfunctional