Recently, I wrote an article about the various ways in which I enjoy watching (listening to?, although you can always say watching to me I promise) sports. It is a national pastime for so many of us, and yet ironically, it probably contributes to our sedentarism. So few of us actually get off of our rumps and play ! sports, especially those of us with disabilities.
With yesterday’s launch of the winter Paralympics, a series of adapted sports for persons with disabilities that began in the 40s, I thought I would attempt to highlight some of the sports and leagues that have been created to try and address the affore mentioned shortcoming. I heard via NPR that there are five sports currently played in the Paralympics: skiing, sledge hockey, the biathalon, which involves cross-country skiing and shooting at a target, and I am unable to recall the final two. I am not sure to what degree blind individuals participate in these games, but I do know some who enjoy skiing. I’ve never tried it, and am not entirely convinced I have the guts to do so.
I think for the most part, blind folks tend to partake in summer-type activities to a much greater extent. These range from nearly full-body contact sports to rather more laid back pursuits that at least allow for some display of ability.
The one I most enjoyed while growing up was beep baseball. Many of us refer to it as more a combination of baseball and football, as you have to corral the heavy softball as it rolls along the ground, and you’re just about as likely to lose an arm in the process. Ah, but it was great fun. My hearing, and perhaps my body, has deteriorated too much for me to safely play now, sadly. For more details on that sport, read the linked article above.
Another sport I tried but didn’t like as much was goal ball. Here, you lie on the floor inside of a taped line, and smash a ball with bells to the other side where the other team is. Your objective is to get it by the other team and across the line, which would result in a score. The other team must attempt to stop it with their bodies, quite often by having the ball slam into a belly. Ah ok, this was kinda fun I suppose. But it’s usually played in hot, sweaty gyms. I was never all that good at it.
And of course, there are always track and field-type events. Of these, I most enjoyed the longjump, where you have to gather up momentum and launch yourself across a sandy pit as far as you could go. I was also a decent runner in my day, often tiring my guides out when in high school.
The only other “sport,” if it can indeed be called that, in which I participated is bowling. Specifically, my area had created a team that was a part of the American Blind Bowling Association (ABBA). They connect with several local teams who host area and regional tournaments, and send participants to the National Tournament held once a year.
I only ever competed in one tournament in Winston-Salem, NC. I enjoyed it, though my scores were laughable and it can get pricy to bowl every week. We had practices, and so we went to the alley on Fridays at $8 a pop.
There are other sports about which I know less, such as blind golf. My cousin says he has done this, and if I remember correctly you have a sighted person behind you who lets you know where abouts to swing the club. I wouldn’t be surprised if there is some sort of blind table tennis league also.
For those of you who are curious, especially parents raising blind or low vision children, I’d suggest googling a lot of these sports. There is a lot that one can do to be and remain active, and of course the benefits of so doing cannot be overstated. While I may not engage in athletics as much as I once did or should, I definitely do walk for at least 20 minutes a day. Going to and from the bus stop is good for that.
I am aware that this is a blind-centric post, since that is what I most know. I invite persons with other sorts of disabilities or those who have learned about what may be available for wheelchair users and the like to guest post here. Just contact me if you are willing to do it. Thanks.