SPORTS

Blind, visually impaired youths aim for state goalball title

Apr 20, 2018, 7:18 PM | Updated: Apr 21, 2018, 6:47 am
The Funyuns from left: Shay Tucker, of South Jordan, 8; Landon Carter, of Lehi, 8; Kowin Sperry, of...
The Funyuns from left: Shay Tucker, of South Jordan, 8; Landon Carter, of Lehi, 8; Kowin Sperry, of Orem, 11; Funyuns coach Thayne Garner, of Highland, and Kelton Heath, of Eagle Mountain, 9, celebrate winning their goalball match during the Utah Goalball Championship Tournament at the Copperview Recreation Center on Friday, April 20, 2018, in Midvale. (Jacob Wiegand, Deseret News)
(Jacob Wiegand, Deseret News)

MIDVALE — Two teams of three take their positions on the court, spreading out side by side on opposite baselines, ready to defend the goals behind them.

One player picks up the blue, basketball-size ball and rolls it underhand in the direction of the other team’s goal. The bells inside the ball jingle as it rolls toward one of the players, who drops from his knees and lays on his slide to deflect the shot.

Twinkies teammates Reese Branch, of Bothwell, 9, and Eric Mildenhall, of Perry, 9, prepare to intercept the ball during their matchup against the Gummy Worms in the Utah Goalball Championship Tournament at the Copperview Recreation Center on Friday, April 20, 2018, in Midvale. (Jacob Wiegand, Deseret News)

All six players are wearing eyeshades, leveling the playing field among the visually impaired athletes.

“It’s kind of like a combination of bowling and dodgeball,” explained Jeannie Schuneman, a 17-year-old South Sevier High School student and one of about 45 youths competing Friday at the 2018 Utah Goalball State Championship Tournament at the Copperview Recreation Center. “But instead of dodging the ball, you want to have the ball touch you, you either want to make sure it gets out or that you catch it so you can try to get a goal.”

Schuneman has been playing goalball for about four years, she said. It’s a Paralympic sport specifically designed for the blind and visually impaired.

“It helps with teamwork,” said Schuneman, who is legally blind. “Most sports that involve teams are for people with sight. Like, I can’t play volleyball because I wouldn’t be able to track the ball with the type of vision impairment I have.”

Visually impaired youths from across the state have been practicing since January for Friday’s state tournament, said Jalayne Engberg, a teacher of the blind and visually impaired, and president of the Utah Foundation for the blind.

“All of these kids are visually impaired students,” Engberg said. “All of them have … different levels of vision impairment, but we make everything the same (because) everyone wears a blindfold while they play.”

Goalball was invented in Germany following World War II, she said, “as something for a lot of the blinded veterans to do.”

Goalball competitors face off in the Utah Goalball Championship Tournament at the Copperview Recreation Center on Friday, April 20, 2018, in Midvale. (Jacob Wiegand, Deseret News)

“What I love about (goalball) is a lot of the time kids who are blind or visually impaired … can’t compete fully in a game for sighted players,” Engberg said. “So here it’s an equal playing field. … And it’s a team sport, so they get to be part of a team. It’s great for them.”

Jacob Sorenson, 19, has been playing goalball since age 7. He’s been a part of state and regional goalball teams, and now is playing in adult tournaments.

“It’s a Paralympic sport now, so it’s starting to get more relevant around here,” Sorenson said.

Because players are visually impaired, string is run along the boundaries, and the players use those guidelines to orient themselves on the court and position themselves to defend their goal.

“You can feel where you are and not get lost,” he said. “You listen for the ball, and once you hear the ball coming toward you, you lay on your side and block the ball. Then you stand up and throw it back to the other side and try to make goals.”

Engberg said players at Friday’s tournament also were being evaluated for positions on U.S. Paralympic goalball teams.

Today’s Top Stories

Sports

The luge and bobsled track will be in use for the World Cup....
TIM REYNOLDS, AP Sports Writer

Olympic luge champ Natalie Geisenberger expecting 2nd baby

Olympic luge champ Natalie Geisenberger of Germany is pregnant with her second child. Geisenberger has won the last three Olympic women's luge gold medals and is considered by many to be the most dominant athlete in her sport's history.
3 days ago
Salt Lake County is working to make sure its golf courses don't use as much water in the drought....
Martha Harris

Salt Lake County says it has decreased water-use on its golf courses

Salt Lake County says it has back water usage on its golf courses. The county says it has done by changing how they water.
6 days ago
Utah Falconz team members cheer in celebration...
Mark Jackson

Women’s football team Utah Falconz heads to national championship

Utah's semi-pro tackle women's football team, the Utah Falconz, will head to Texas on June 26 to face off against the Texas Elite Spartans.
22 days ago
boys soccer Utah injuries...
Becky Bruce

High school boys’ soccer put on probation for the high number of ejections

SALT LAKE CITY — The growing number of ejections in high school boys’ soccer prompted the Utah High School Activities Association (UHSAA) to issue a yellow card, of sorts, for the sport. In soccer, a player or coach is ejected when they receive a red card. In such situations, a substitute for the disqualified player […]
24 days ago
FILE - United States gymnasts from left, Simone Biles, McKayla Maroney, Aly Raisman and Maggie Nich...
ED WHITE Associated Press

Simone Biles, other women seek $1B-plus from FBI over Nassar

The approximately 90 claimants who said they were sexually assaulted include Biles, Aly Raisman and McKayla Maroney, all Olympic gold medalists.
29 days ago
Figure skate age Olympics...
Associated Press

Figure skating minimum age rises to 17 before 2026 Olympics

The age limit will be phased in with 16-year-olds allowed to compete in the 2023-24 season. It will then rise to 17 for the season before the Olympics.
30 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Tax Harassment...
Jordan Wilcox

The best strategies for dealing with IRS tax harassment | You have options!

Learn how to deal with IRS tax harassment. This guide will teach you how to stop IRS phone calls and letters, and how to handle an IRS audit.
spend a day at Bear Lake...
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

You’ll love spending the day at Bear Lake | How to spend a day at Bear Lake

Bear Lake is a place that needs to be experienced. Spend a day at Bear Lake.
Curb Appeal...
Price's Guaranteed Doors

How to have the best of both worlds for your house | Home security and curb appeal

Protect your home and improve its curb appeal with the latest security solutions like beautiful garage doors and increased security systems.
Prescription opioids can be disposed of during National Prescription Take Back Day...
Know Your Script

Prescription opioid misuse | How to protect your family from the opioid epidemic

Studies have shown that prescription opioid misuse has increased since COVID-19. So what do you need to know about these opioids?
national heart month...
Intermountain Healthcare

National Heart Month: 5 Lifestyle Changes to Make Today to Keep You Heart Healthy

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. One person dies every 36 seconds in the United States from cardiovascular disease
Joseph Smith Memorial Building...
Temple Square

The Joseph Smith Memorial Building is an icon of Salt Lake City | Why hosting an event at this beautiful location will make you a hero this year

Here's why hosting an event at the iconic Joseph Smith Memorial Building in downtown Salt Lake City will make you a hero this year.
Blind, visually impaired youths aim for state goalball title