Virginia School for the Deaf and Blind hosts summit for blind soccer

STAUNTON, Va. (WHSV) – The Virginia School for the Deaf and Blind hosted its first-ever blind soccer education summit this week.

“As we educate our coaches hasn’t, they’re gonna be that pipeline to ambassador the sport and bring this game to a community that’t had that opportunity,” Kevin Brown, blind sports ambassador for the United States Association for Blind Athletes, said.

30 participants from 18 different states spent the week at the VSDB learning how to establish, teach and maintain a blind soccer team.

Some of the participants were from Clemson University where they have their own team for blind soccer.

“Our program really started about seven years ago and we are very much supported by the US Department of Veterans Affairs,” Margaret Domka, a Ph.D. student at Clemson University said. “When we are out here we’re primarily trying to bring veterans into the mix. We want to teach them how to coach a disability sport, but also how to play a disability sport, so we’ve had great opportunities to bring grassroots coaching courses to veterans.”

From coaching to being coached on how to coach blind soccer, the past week has been educational for those who attended the summit.

“The hope is to grow the sport so that it becomes a nationwide league that encompasses the other schools for the blind,” Pat Trice, superintendent for Virginia School for the Deaf and Blind said.

According to the program director of USABA, Kevin Brousard, the general rules of the game stay the same, but there are noise adaptations.

Brousard said in blind soccer, a ball with a rattle is used and players yell “voy” which is Spanish for “I go” to establish their place on the field. A coach dings down the left and right poles and calls out center during penalty kicks and “shoot” in-game so players can follow their voice and make the best shot.

“It’s really finding different sound sources across the field, you might have 10 or 12 different noises happening at once and as a player on the field you have this everchanging mental picture that you have to be aware of,” Kevin Brousard, program and finance director for USABA said.

Participants at this week’s summit said they want to grow the grassroots portion of blind soccer.

“We want the grassroots portion to grow as much as possible and then from a national level, US Association of Blind Athletes we are developing a national team program so we want to create a team that plays at the elite level,” Brousard said. “We are gonna be making our Paralympic games debut at the LA 20-28 Paralympic games as well.”

Although those who participated in this week’s summit learning how to coach blind players, some have already coached blind teams in the past and see the benefits it has on those athletes.

“Knowing that they can do it and knowing that they have the abilities to be more independent and be more successful whether it’s on the field or off,” Katie Smith, blind soccer coach said.

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