visually impaired and sighted students, which demonstrates the inclusivity of the sport and the opportunities available – from playing and coaching to refereeing.

Recently, 12 more schools have signed up to provide their students with this opportunity as the programme is really starting to gather momentum.

With visually impaired communities being restricted from having the opportunities to participate in a variety of sports that their peers have, it goes beyond the physical benefits that playing sport undoubtedly delivers. Research has shown that 30%of blind people display increased levels of depressive symptoms.

Many of the visually impaired students that we have worked with - whether they were born with a condition or lost their sight at a later age – have expressed feel ings of isolation. This common theme is certainly a barrier that holds them back from taking part in sporting activity. Nearly all of them went on to state a desire to reengage with their peers as they feel they are being denied the skills, exercise and psychological benefits of

We know first-ha team sports.

nd from the goalball


capabilities instead of deficits and make them more flexible in adapting to different ways of completing activities.

Whether it’s goalball, or any other team sport,

students in a school setting will enable greater independence and confidence.

A great example of this is what occurred

following a session we delivered at the University Academy Keighley inWest Yorkshire.

Three of the visually impaired students found the game very liberating and it gave them an enormous confidence boost. They have since started their own goalball afterschool club which is proving very popular with the blind and partially sighted students at the school and in the surrounding area, as well as several sighted students.

We have also seen students fromMarlcliffe School in Sheffield join the South Yorkshire Goalball Club following a session we delivered. They are now playing the sport competitively in the region.

communities across the UK and the students that we have engaged with on this scheme, by

harnessing the positive impact of team sports and the comradery that is associated with it, it can help to reduce many of negative effects and cultivate positive ones. In countless cases it goes much further and significantly improves their quality of life and wellbeing.

Sport is linked with higher self-efficiency, exercise, enjoyment, physical appearance and social support. All of which are fundamentally important to encompass and experience for young people, especially those with a visually impairment, as they navigate their way through the education system.

As partaking in t eam sports can also make a substantial improvement on someone’s self- esteem, this is a trait that is known to offset the negative effects of sight loss, especially if the student was born with vision. It can help to enable the necessary acceptance of the impairment, help to focus on the remaining

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by engaging with students through the power of sport and addressing issues by making sporting activity more accessible for visually impaired

For many young people that have the confidence to join a goalball club outside of school, the tournaments and training sessio n present the first occasions where they have travelled independently. From there, it is not too big a leap to have the self-assurance to engage further with their peers, increase their social networks and ultimately reduce isolation. As Goalball UK continues to grow and our National School Programme maintains its impetus throughout the UK, we strongly believe this sport will be transformational for many more people. We hope that sport, not only goalball but all team sports, can continue to break down barriers for young visually impaired people .

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