Growing up I never thought I was a ‘sporty’ person. You give a Visually Impaired person a tennis racket and tell them to hit the tennis ball (you know that small green blur that you have no chance of seeing?) and it probably isn’t going to work very well. But in 2012, I found the love of my life – Goalball! An inclusive team sport that involves no sight. Every player is blindfolded, the ball is audible and the court is tactile, so anyone can play, no matter how little or how much sight you have. And for a VI person, this was amazing! No straining your eyes looking for your teammates, or feeling embarressed because you’re aimlessly waving a bat around hoping for the best. So yeah, since I found this sport, my life has entirely centred around it. Which, explains why, for a conference I made a very long trek to York.
Just over 6 hours. That’s how long it took me. On Saturday 7th September 2019, to travel from South Wales to York St John University to attend the first ever Goalball UK ‘Grow OUR Game’ Conference.
So, what was the conference all about?
Well, it included almost every aspect of the game, from rule updates, tournament venue changes, attack and defence basic training, how to prepare for training and what you need to know when coaching from the bench. So yeah, a lot to take in, but well worth it.
My favourite talk though was from Ian Braid who gave a powerful talk entitled “who’s looking after the people, that look after the people?”. This was all about the duty of care to everyone in your club, specifically the mental health side of it. Yes, we might get into sport to develop ourselves personally, or to have fun, to coach, or to volunteer etc. But the key message for me from the conference, is that sport isn’t based solely on your physicallity. You’ve also got to take care of your mentality too. How can you coach someone or help out a fellow player and enthuse them with passion for the sport that you play, unless you’re in the right frame of mind yourself? I think it’s one of the reasons I enjoy paricipating in sport so much, not only can it help with making you fitter etc. But for me, it’s definitely a way to destress after a long week. The bus drove past you this morning? You missed your train? The dog threw up? You’ve lost your keys? No problem, take that frustration and focus it. Make it your strength in game play. For example, when in Goalball, after a bad day, instead of getting in a bad mood or becoming frustrated, I use that extra energy into throwing the ball. If you’re into mindfulness etc. – imagine, it’s as if you’re throwing away that bad energy. It’s an amazing feeling.
Outside of the talks at the conference my next favourite part was the social quiz Saturday evening. People from all over the UK came to the conference, including myself from Wales, someone from Scotland, people from Yorkshire, Derby, London, Birmingham etc. etc. but by the end of the quiz, you’d think we had all known each other for years. That can also be the power of sport. It’s not only the activity of playing the sport, but those extra activities you do to encourage teamwork and team dynamics. Yeah, we all play the same sport but we also all enjoy letting down our hair and having some good banter.
So if you’re looking for something to do or you want to try something new. Why not take up a sport? Now in South Wales, not only do we have the South Wales Goalball Club, but there’s VI Bowls, VI Tennis, Bowling, Guided Running, VI Football, Swimming and most recently – VI Rugby (c’mon, it’s Wales! Of course we have rugby!). Nowadays there are so many more choices than there ever used to be. Want to get fitter? Want to destress? Want to meet likeminded people? Well then, you know what to do! Find a local club and as we say in Goalball #GetInvolved
By Megan John