Goalball Exchange with World Youth Champions from Australia

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Australian Brodie Smith In Action

Thanks to the Singapore Disability Sport Council (SDSC), we had the opportunity to have a world champ coach and team help us improve our game recently (11th to 13th of Feb).

Over the short span of three days, Coach Murray and his team have helped me see potential in the team beyond what I could imagine. This was clearly demonstrated by our women team’s progress between the two friendly games on the first and last day of the program.

“Having a mentor coach is perhaps one of the most powerful way for a coach to develop and improve.”

In Goalball, the game is ended as soon as one team wins by a ten goal margin. The SG women’s team lost 0-10 even before the first half on the first day. On the last day, our team lost 1-10, but managed to hold the Australian team up to the end of regulation time.

This was no easy feat for a Southeast Asian team, especially since the last time the women had a chance to compete in a friendly game was in 2016 (drew 10-10) against Malaysia, and they were up against a very disciplined team that recently beat Russia to win the world youth championship  (view link).

Key Takeaways from the Exchange Program  

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Joan’s story…

Joan’s visually impaired (VI) and is a Goalball player from TeamSG. Over the weekend, she was invited by IC2, a prep school for low vision kids, to share about the critical development role of sport participation, and the obstacles preventing kids from being active.

Joan speaking to parents at IC2
Joan speaking to parents at IC2

Joan went to a mainstream school, and shared that she was lucky to have parents (both visually impaired) who would call up the school to complain whenever she was excluded from PE lessons or sports. This was in contrast to most of her peers whose parents would call the school to excuse them from “dangerous” physical activities. Joan shared that many of her peers were physically awkward, and were sometimes even mistaken to be both visually and physically impaired! She feels that overprotective parents and a risk adverse environment are to be blame for their lack of co-ordination and balance.

Some of my players have also shared with me that they have never learnt a sport (but they learnt how to play several types of musical instruments) during their school years at schools for the visually impaired. They were also not allowed to run around even in schools due to “safety reasons”.

 

Just in case that you reckon Joan’s experience is simply anecdotal evidence, there has been rigorous studies to suggest that kids who are deprived of play during critical periods of development will miss out on important milestones, and will never fully realize their genetic potential – physically, affectively and cognitively. Consequently, they are less likely to be active and will more likely suffer from obesity and other health related issues. As they get older, their risk of falling and suffering from a physical impairments is also higher. They end up with more than one impairment!

I hope overprotective aka Kiasu parents realize that if their kids grow up to be “psychomotor idiots”, they are largely to blame. Also, I don’t reckon this relates only to kids with VI. Increasingly, able-bodied kids have also been found to miss out on important developmental milestones due to the lack of play.

Coach Hansen

“The impediment to action advances the action, what stands in the way becomes the way…” Marcus Aurelius

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Yup! We did not qualify for the 2017 Asean Para Games (APG).

Our commitment was questionable (attendance wasn’t up to mark) and although the women’s team had good results from friendly games, these were not IBSA sanctioned competitions. Results from IBSA sanctioned events are used as the main benchmarks for qualification.

Unfortunately, the latter is a real challenge mainly because the APG is the ONLY IBSA sanctioned competition for South East Asian countries. The level of competition for other IBSA events are at a much higher level and only Thailand competes at these competitions.

The cost is also high – USD 600 per player for a recent Asia Pacific competition organized by Thailand. Also, our players may not be able to take leave for overseas competition due to work or school commitments.

In addition, unlike our regional counterparts where selection can be made from domestic competitions, we do not have a big pool of players for any meaningful domestic competitions.

Given these circumstances, we will work with the SDSC to come up with a revised plan to measure the team’s progress leading up to APG 2019 (which also marks the end of the team’s five year plan). Should qualification for APG 2019 be improbable, then we will be better off directing our efforts towards a different pathway so long as the team’s core purpose – ‘To provide opportunities for persons with visual impairments to participate in a competitive team sport’ is still met.

Coach Hansen