Nick Claudio edited over a yellow background with the Paralympic symbol.
Kate McCabe / Gavel Media

Goalball for All: Bringing the Paralympic Sport to BC

At most sporting events, the atmosphere is full of passionate spectators cheering loudly when their team scores a goal, booing referees, or taunting opposing players. Have you ever heard of a sport in which the audience is completely silent? What about a sport in which, regardless of seeing ability, players are blindfolded for the duration of the game? 

This is goalball, a game that Nick Claudio, MCAS ’22, knows a lot about, but not many other people do. This lack of awareness is where Claudio’s idea for a goalball club at BC started. It is a sport for the blind, created by the blind, but anyone can play. Goalball was born when World War II soldiers who had gone blind from tear gas and other warfare-related injuries devised a way to enjoy themselves and stay in shape.

The ball used in this sport is 2.8 pounds and the size of a basketball. What sets it apart is that in order for players to hear where the ball is traveling, bells are embedded within. There are two teams—each consisting of three players—and similarly to forwards in hockey, the positions they hold are left wing, right wing, and center. Each team sits on their respective side of the volleyball-sized court in front of their personal net.

When the other team is in possession of the ball, defending players remain stationary until the sound of the bells indicate that the ball is coming towards their side. In order to protect the ball from entering their goal, players move about in the general vicinity of their half of the court, stretching out in order to stop the ball.

On the offensive side, players stand and throw the ball in what can be best described as a more intense version of the motion one uses for bowling. Although this may seem like a simple movement, Claudio explains that there is a strategic component that involves putting a spin on the ball or practicing a special way to wind-up before throwing.

Goalball is not complex, but in no way does that make for a lack of competition, as it is an official Paralympic sport played around the world. The sport’s Paralympic debut came before the time when the Olympics and Paralympics were held in the same city, a switch that didn’t occur until 1988. Goalball was first introduced as a men’s sport at the 1976 Paralympic games in Toronto, and as a women’s sport in 1984 at the games in New York City. Every four years, a growing number of countries participate in the sport and, as a result, it continues to gain more attention. 

The US men's and women’s goalball teams took home silver and bronze medals, respectively, at the 2016 Paralympic games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and they hope to medal again in Tokyo this summer. On the non-Paralympic level, goalball is played in different schools, clubs, and leagues around the world. By starting a goalball club on campus, Claudio wants BC to become a part of the movement. 

When asked why he wanted to start this club and bring the game of goalball to BC students, Claudio starts, “First of all, I love goalball, it’s a really fun sport to play.” For him, though, starting this club is not just for fun, but also for awareness: “There’s no sport at BC that was made for or by someone with a disability, so goalball can be the first.” 

The first step in any new club is participation. Claudio recognizes that, because not many people know what goalball is nor how to play, getting the word out and sparking interest in the sport is important. He hopes the club will come together quickly and begin practices, as an inaugural match has already been set with Perkins School for the Blind. Hopefully, their enthusiasm is an indicator of the success to come—they were quick to challenge the soon-to-be official BC goalball team to a game.

If you’re interested in becoming a part of BC’s premier goalball club, or getting involved in any way, you can reach Nick Claudio at [email protected]

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Svea McNally