Students from Brooke Weston took part in a goalball training session led by Paralympian Niall Graham, which was filmed for the Newsround programme. TV presenter Martin Dougan also interviewed some of our visually impaired students for the report, which focussed on the provision of sports in schools for those with disabilities.
Goalball involves teams of three blindfolded players, who have to score goals using a specially adapted ball that contains bells, so players can locate it. The blindfolds allow partially sighted players to compete on an equal footing with blind and sighted players.
The training comprised a session where they learned how to locate and control the ball, and culminated in a series of matches. Students from across the year group took part, along with seven of our visually impaired students.
Niall, who played for team GB in the Paralympics said: ‘I was a basketball player until I was 18, but my visual impairment has got worse over the last couple of years. I was asked to try out goalball by the GB coach at the time. I showed up to what I thought was a talent day and it was extra training for the whole squad. Then I was asked to try out. I have been playing the sport for about two years. A lot of the skills are transferable as it is about communication, trusting your team-mates and having the agility to get down quickly, they are the skills you need for goalball.
‘Today’s session went really well. As the students walked in they didn’t know what to expect. At the end we asked how many people worked with, spoke to or shared something with a student that they don’t normally have contact with and two thirds of the hands went up. When they are blindfolded they don’t mind who they are passing to or sharing with.’
The session was facilitated by teacher Mrs Bryan, alongside Matthew Peleszok from the Corby, Oundle and Thrapson School Sports Partnership and Alex Bunney from Goalball UK. Afterwards Niall took part in a question and answer session with seven of our visually impaired students. It was the second time that they had met as last month he and Olympian Darren Campbell trained the same students at a goalball tournament in Wellingborough. It was run by Rhian Turnbull from Friars School and funded by Project Ability, a Youth Sport Trust initiative which aims to increase opportunities to improve and extend provision for young disabled pupils to take part in competitive sport. The follow-up session at Brooke Weston was also funded by Project Ability.
It was filmed by Lucy Bailey, an assistant producer for Newsround and some of the students were interviewed by presenter Martin Dougan. He has a special interest in disability sports as he presented some of Channel 4’s Paralympic coverage: ‘It was live coverage and quite scary, it was a big adrenaline rush because there are millions of people watching you all across the world, it is quite daunting. This is my first job with Newsround. We are looking to find out what the reaction has been after the Paralympics with sports in schools and how that legacy has impacted sport in school.
‘We looked at a disabled school and we wanted to see what effect that had on them in terms of the curriculum had changed. We have met a few Paralympians to see what their life has been like post-Games and now we have come to an able-bodied school to see how it has worked out the other way, to see if maybe disability is more of a focus now in terms of disabled students in an able-bodied school.’
‘The students have told us that it is quite amazing the fact that they are visually impaired but it is almost like they are teaching the students who are sighted how to play a sport. When it comes to able-bodied sport it comes down to the fact that only able-bodied people can play it which shouldn’t be the case, and it shouldn’t be the case for disabled sport either. We have got to make sure that we are integrating the way that it should be done.
‘I wasn’t allowed to do PE in primary school so to come here to see goalball, a Paralympic sport, being presented in a main-stream school, means that sport has come on a lot more than I expected. It is great to see something that these students are in charge of, the fact that this is ultimately a sport for visually impaired so it is theirs to show everyone else. They might feel sometimes when they go into the gym that they have got a disadvantage, but now, today and maybe at other times they are going to go in and think to themselves, I’ve got this one, I can take this.’