Jul 19, 2014 12:00 AM by Greg Smith
The Rocky Mountain State Games are officially underway, and it's more than just a competition. If you need evidence, meet the players of a new sport to the event, Goalball.
Imagine playing sports without being able to see.
"Once you put those eye shades on, everyone is on an equal playing field."
A game designed for visually impaired athletes, Goalball is making its Rocky Mountain State Games debut Saturday. Sighted players are blindfolded, and teams of three try to roll a ball with a bell in it into the opposing team's net without being able to see. Some players on the team were born blind, others, like Calvin Poole, went blind later in life. But many are wounded soldiers, like former army infantry member Cas Werda, who lost his sight in an I.E.D. explosion oversees.
"When I first was injured, lost my sight, it was really tough, it took me a while get out of the hole, and to transition," says Werda. "When you have something with sports, it kind of gives you a little more purpose."
"I never got that opportunity to play a team sport," says Matt Simpson. "Finding this game was definitely a turning point for me. It helped me learn a lot of skills that pertained to my blindness, that help me in my everyday life. There is something you can do out there competitively with your peers."
Simpson was born visually impaired and has turned it into a spot on the US National Goalball team, fresh off a 3rd place finish at World Championships. He, and the rest of the players, are excited to share the sport in the Rocky Mountain State Games.
"It's great for our sport to kind of get some more exposure, and be a part of that huge event. I think it's a really cool coordination between everybody."
"You love the sport, but at the same time," says Werda. "You realize what you're doing, you're growing the sport."
Growing the sport means it can help many more the way it helped them.
"I don't even think it is an overstatement to say transformation. Drastically improved their independence, their confidence, their desire to compete," says Simpson. "There's something they can do and they haven't lost that ability to compete and work as a team."
For these players, not seeing is believing.