Spotlight On... Goalball
It’s a Paralympic summer, but don’t just watch the sports, try them!
Parasport's Spotlight On… series offers a quick glimpse into the world of a Paralympic sport – the thoughts, feelings, emotions and behind the scenes details that may be hidden to the outside world.
In the next part of the series, we spoke to Kelsey Trevett, who used to make long journeys from Watford to Winchester to begin a goalball journey which went on to lead him to the Royal National College Goalball team.
Kelsey, who is currently studying Philosophy, Politics and Economics at the University of Oxford, told us about his love of a game which, in his words, has ‘changed my life’.
Tell us about how you got into goalball and your progression to where you are today.
"I got involved in goalball just after the 2012 Paralympics where I saw the sport for the first time on such a high-profile stage. I started when I was around 11 or 12 with Winchester Goalball Club in 2013 and went there every couple of weeks from Watford which was quite a journey, but it was really worth it.
"The people at Winchester were key to my development in the sport and got me through to an intermediate level at goalball. I was competing in the general national tournaments on behalf of Winchester.
"When I was 16, I moved to Hereford and played for the Royal National College Goalball Team for two years. Alongside that, I participated in some of the talent camps hosted by Goalball UK which were great.
"At the moment, with the pandemic there isn't much to get involved with at University, but my plan is to travel back to Winchester and play goalball there from September. It's been hard this year to be involved in it. Goalball for me is a thing I use to destress and feel so included in, and a break from academic stuff. I missed having that release this past year.
Why goalball over other sports?
"It’s the only Paralympic sport designed specifically for visually impaired athletes. I came from a mainstream school when I first started goalball. It was difficult to adapt to mainstream sports and whole class activities to make sure I was fully included, and that I wasn't an afterthought or just not able to participate.
"There was something really attractive and appealing with a sport that's been designed with visually impaired athletes in mind and everyone is on an equal playing field. Having that full inclusion and not being at a disadvantage for once because I can't see is something really quite rare and special. It's a huge part of why I love it.
"The Paralympics is huge and so powerful. I think a lot of it is about inspiring at grassroots level. I watched goalball at the Paralympics and thought, 'that's something I could do'. I hadn't even heard of goalball because sadly we don't have the funding or reach to get the word out so the Paralympic Games is a great stage and platform as well."
What’s the one thing you now know, that you wish you’d known before getting started in the sport?
"Before I got involved, the key interest and key appeal of goalball was the sport itself and being included. I wish I had known just how much the sport would mean to me.
"There's a lot more to it than the time you're on court playing, there's also the community behind it and skills I've developed in my day-to-day life.
"My general independence improved, my mobility as well, and I wish I had known as it is just all the more reason to get involved! I know all those things now and I benefit from them, and I hope that goalball will continue to give that to aspiring visually impaired athletes."
What’s been your favourite memory in the sport so far?
"My favourite memory sounds quite insignificant in the grand scheme of things, but we won the Intermediate Championships which was on behalf of Winchester.
"Obviously, the game play was a brilliant experience and being able to contribute to the win was fantastic, but it was the sense of community afterwards that really made it - the sense of being part of a team of equals playing that game and being able to celebrate that and feel very proud.
"In that environment I was able to play on the same level of everyone else, which in itself is a really positive memory. There is a way to be included, and you realise that on the court when you're playing, but you also feel that off the court when you're looking at what's possible and what's achievable."
What's the best thing about goalball?
"There are so many good things about goalball! I think the best thing about it for me is probably being able to work very closely with other teammates, having those strategies and discussions, and building those team relations.
"It's the sense of being together and working together and knowing you could achieve something together. You have to work together - there's no other choice. It manifests on the court, but it also manifests in friendships off the court."
What’s something only a goalball player would know or appreciate?
"How many bruises you end up with! But seriously, the amount of concentration that goalball takes is a lot.
"It's fast-paced, and you need to be able to track the ball and hear where the other team are moving, so it's a heck a lot of concentration and constant focus.
"It might be apparent when watching but you can't get to grips with it until you do it. We're hyper vigilant to everything that's going on."
What would you say to someone considering trying goalball?
"Definitely give goalball a go. Just get involved and go down to your local club, or even just to watch it. It's such an amazing sport in itself but also an amazing community of people and amazing wealth of experience from people.
"You can't lose out so just give it a go! It's really changed my life and I think it could be the same for other people. It worries me that other young visually impaired people don't feel that they have the opportunity or be able to benefit from the things I've benefitted so much from. My hope is that we can broaden the scope."
Gain an insight into the world of other Paralympic sports by visiting our Spotlight On… series hub page here.
Want to give goalball a try? Check out our club finder!