WMU News

WMU team members warm up for World Goal Ball Championships

July 9, 1998

KALAMAZOO--Three Western Michigan University students will be among the USA National Goal Ball team members practicing for the World Goal Ball Championships Monday and Tuesday, July 13 and 14, on the WMU campus.

The team is gearing up for the 10-day world championship games which begin in Madrid, Spain, Saturday, July 18. Practice sessions will be held in the Oakland Gym from 9 a.m. to noon and 5 to 8 p.m. both days.

WMU students Shawn W. Donaldson of Livonia, Christopher L. Piper of Grand Rapids and Joseph B. Hamilton of Wayne are three members of the six member USA National Goal Ball team. The other three players are from Tennessee, Los Angeles and Arizona. Dr. Paul Ponchillia, WMU professor of blind rehabilitation, is serving as one of three coaches of the national squad.

The team will travel from Kalamazoo to Madrid, Spain, to compete against 16 teams from around the globe in the world games. The USA will begin play in the first round with teams from Canada, Sweden, Egypt, South Korea, Italy, South Africa and Finland.

Goal ball is a fast-paced, goal-oriented sport similar to hockey or soccer. However, it is played exclusively by visually impaired or blindfolded players. It was originally developed in Eastern Europe by blind veterans following World War II and came to the United States in the 1970s.

Playing on a surface the size of a volleyball court, competitors use a 3.5-pound ball that contains a bell so they can hear it. Using their sense of touch and ability to hear, three offensive players catch, pass and attempt to score against three defensive players. The game is fierce and aggressive and the ball may travel at speeds of more than 40 miles per hour.

The USA National Goal Ball Team is organized through the United States Association of Blind Athletes. The group's mission is to ensure that athletes who are blind and visually impaired have the same sport competition and training opportunities as their sighted counterparts.

For more information about the training camp, persons should contact: Dr. Paul E. Ponchillia, WMU professor of blind rehabilitation, at (616) 387-3449.

Media contact: Julie Paavola, 616 387-8400, julie.paavola@wmichedu

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