River City Academy teachers Annaleah Karron, Chris Kolishchak and Thomas Degray defend their goal in a Monday morning game of goalball at River City Academy in Soldotna, Alaska. Since the game is meant to be played by those with visual impairments, each team member had to wear blindfolds and listen for the ball, which is equipped with a jingling bell. (Photo by Kat Sorensen/Peninsula Clarion)

River City Academy teachers Annaleah Karron, Chris Kolishchak and Thomas Degray defend their goal in a Monday morning game of goalball at River City Academy in Soldotna, Alaska. Since the game is meant to be played by those with visual impairments, each team member had to wear blindfolds and listen for the ball, which is equipped with a jingling bell. (Photo by Kat Sorensen/Peninsula Clarion)

A quiet crowd — district embracing goalball

There is one objective in goalball: get the ball across the goal line.

Each team has three players and one teammate propels the ball towards their opponent’s goal. To defend, the other team can use any part of their body to stop the ball from rolling or bouncing past them.

Not too difficult, right? So, what’s the catch? And why were the spectators in River City Academy’s gymnasium so quiet on Monday morning?

Well, goalball is played blind. Instead of sight, players rely on their other senses, like hearing, to win. The ball is equipped with a small, jingling bell so the teams can block it from crossing their goal line based on the sound of the bell. To ensure that players can hear the ball and keep their bearings on the field, there is no cheering or applause allowed.

This proved especially difficult to enforce during a goalball game between three River City Academy teachers and three Kenai Peninsula Borough School District employees, where they donned blindfolds and flung their bodies across the gym floor to stop the jingling ball. The crowd of students watching couldn’t resist cheering when an exceptionally good save was made, or an exceedingly tricky shot was missed.

“I got better at hearing the bell (over the course of the game) but the center of the court is really disorienting,” said River City Academy teacher Annaleah Karron. “The ball will go there and you can hear it bouncing but you have to guess which direction it goes … It was a lot harder than I thought, the ball too. It knocked the wind out of me a few times.”

Although Carron may have left the game a little beat up, her ego wasn’t bruised since the teachers beat the district officials eight to five.

Now, the River City teachers will move on to play the winners of a game between Redoubt Elementary and M0untain View Elementary. Over the course of October, students, teachers and administrators throughout the district are trying their hand at goalball, which is recognized by the Paralympic Games, in recognition of Blind Awareness Month.

“It’s so exciting,” said Jordana Engebresten, who is blind and works with the district teaching the blind and visually impaired. “I’m just so happy the teachers and district employees said they would do it. It’s so great.”

Engebresten has been working with the district and community to bring awareness to blindness for several years.

“Every year I do something different to let the community know that there are blind people within their community,” Engebresten said. “We exist and the community doesn’t know.”

Reach Kat Sorensen at kat.sorensen@peninsulaclarion.com

Kevin Downs, a Kenai Peninsula Borough School District special services employee, misjudges where the ball is going during a game of goalball at River City Academy in Soldotna, Alaska on Oct. 23, 2017. (Photo by Kat Sorensen/Peninsula Clarion)

Kevin Downs, a Kenai Peninsula Borough School District special services employee, misjudges where the ball is going during a game of goalball at River City Academy in Soldotna, Alaska on Oct. 23, 2017. (Photo by Kat Sorensen/Peninsula Clarion)

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