Outlook Nebraska Machine Operator Brian Grams has always been a very active person. He played sports in high school and in his younger years. At 19, he realized that his vision loss was too great to drive or play sports, and he had to give up his horse training hobby soon after.
Now, he kneels in the gym at UNO preparing to start the first-ever goalball tournament in Omaha. He and his fellow Outlook Nebraska teammates, Johnny Botsford, Otis Rollins, and James Harvey share some laughs and jokes as they wait for play to begin. These four visually impaired Outlook Nebraska associates have not missed a Saturday of the goalball league since it began in February.
“We make a great team,” Botsford, also a Machine Operator, said. “We all bring something different to the game, and it is fun.”
Goalball is a Paralympic sport designed specifically for the visually impaired that is played indoors on a volleyball-sized court. With teams of three people on each end of the court, the objective is to use your body to block a ball, embedded with a clanging bell, from getting past you.
“Goalball has given me a chance to play a competitive sport again, and I love it,” Grams said. “It brings back many memories of being involved in sports when I was a child. It feels good to know that my lack of sight does not impact my ability to play the game.”
During the league, Outlook Nebraska players, as well as some teen recreation participants, have been able to play each Saturday and learn about the fundamentals of the game.
“Everyone wears sleep shades during play, which levels the playing field for every participant,” Lisa Kelly, Director of Enrichment Programs at Outlook Nebraska, said. “We are excited to now have a recreation activity for visually impaired adults in Omaha.”
Vision loss often leaves people wondering how they will live the rest of their lives. They are unsure of how they will become or stay employed, manage daily tasks, or continue to do the things that they truly enjoy. Being able to play a competitive sport not only gives the visually impaired a chance to exercise, but it can change their entire outlook on life.
“This league has given me the opportunity to participate in some competition again,” said Rollins, who now has significantly reduced vision because of an accident at 26. “However, it has increased my confidence, which is huge. When you lose your vision, you sometimes need a boost to get your life going again. I think goalball could do this for others experiencing vision loss.”
Harvey also enjoys being active and participated in a triathalon in January. “I love goalball,” he said. “I get to exercise and show everyone the capabilities of the blind at the same time.”
The possibilities for those experiencing vision loss are endless, even when it comes to competitive sports.