SAN ANTONIO – A new competitive sport rolled out in San Antonio Tuesday, bringing together local athletes, while uniting local sporting organizations with one goal: making it accessible to athletes of every ability and strength.
The sport is called "Goalball," and the premise is pretty simple. Get more points than the other team, and make sure their ball never reaches your goal. There's a catch, however.
All of the players are blindfolded.
"By everyone wearing goggles, it puts everyone on a level playing field," said Gordon Hartman, the founder of Morgan's Wonderland.
A level playing field is something the South Texas Regional Adaptive and Paralympic Sports or STRAPS organization, strives to give kids and adults with physical disabilities, visual impairments, and special needs.
Points are scored when the opposing team rolls or bounces a ball down the length of the court. The ball must pass the opposing defenders and go into the goal. Players block the ball by using their bodies to stop the ball. Each team of three stays at each end of a 60-foot by 40-foot court.
The ball is a three-pound goalball, similar to a heavy basketball.
"Even though they may have a visual impairment, the game of Goalball is designed where the ball actually has a sound to it. [Players have to] listen to it, and be able to coordinate their moves accordingly," said Hartman.
STRAPS already offers wheelchair soccer, paralympic soccer and sponsors a Special Olympics soccer team at the Monarch Academy at Morgan's Wonderland.
Bonus points for the new sport: Warm Springs Rehabilitation in the South Texas Medical Center has just awarded $25,000 to STRAPS in support of their programs.
Morgan's Wonderland was opened in 2010 and is the world's first ultra-accessible theme park designed with special-needs individuals in mind and built to be enjoyed by everyone. The park also opened the STAR Soccer Complex adjacent to it, which hosts practices, league play and tournaments for teams across Texas.