Christine and Kathryn kneel by the London Paralympics emblem.

Kathryn introduces us to Goalball

Kathryn joins us for Open Day 2021 to let the nystagmus community know all about Goalball. Meanwhile, you can find out more about Kathryn and her sport in this guest blog post.

My name is Kathryn Fielding and I work for Goalball UK. What’s goalball you ask? You’re not the first person, but hopefully before too long you will be the last. My dream is that people’s response will soon just simply be – “oh, goalball, (insert positive comment)”!

So where did my goalball journey begin? The answer is a long way from home, almost 21 years ago. Having recently graduated from university with a degree in Sports Science, I was taking a gap year, travelling the world – some may say ‘avoiding work’ but I prefer to say ‘preparing for work’ – gaining life experience before embarking on a then as unknown career.

Anyway, I purposely arrived in Australia in early September 2000, just in time for the start of the Sydney Olympics. Following which of course came the Paralympics. For me, sport is sport. I’ve always loved playing and watching anything and everything, so my travels were paused for what I thought at the time was a once in a lifetime experience.

On October 21st I went along to watch GB Women play Australia in the wheelchair basketball. Unfortunately, GB lost heavily, but me and my newfound friends that I had made in the hostel that had become my home for the past few weeks still had a blast – proudly waving our Union Jack flags and dancing along to the likes of the YMCA on the big screen! The Cha-Cha slide and Gangnam Style were yet to be released!

That day could have been very different though. Having looked at the schedule, we narrowed our itinerary down to Option A or Option B. Option B being to go support the GB goalball teams – but as we didn’t know what goalball was, we went with Option A and the wheelchair basketball instead.

If we had gone with Option B, I would have indirectly met people (players, coaches and officials) that have since become close friends.

Fast forward 3 calendar years, and after teaching for 2 academic years (back home at Leeds City College) I decided it wasn’t really the career for me. I saw a development role, working specifically with Visually Impaired people, advertised at Disability Sport Yorkshire. If you don’t shoot, you don’t score and all that so despite my relative inexperience in the field, I decided to apply and, much to my surprise, was offered the job.

So, it was October 2003 when my goalball journey really began. The role naturally involved goalball development in Yorkshire as well as supporting British Blind Sport who back then governed goalball nationally. Having quickly learnt the basics, I was soon here, there and everywhere, coaching, officiating and generally helping to raise awareness – as I still am to this day.

Kathryn and her team pose in front of a Goalball UK banner.

My first international trip was to Sweden in November 2004, coaching Leeds (now known as West Yorkshire Goalball Club) at the Gothenburg Marathon tournament. It’s fair to say I was a little bit out of my depth, sitting on the bench doing my best to offer useful insight to the players whilst desperately trying to remain awake. This was not because of a lack of interest in the sport, just that the tournament started at 7pm on the Friday evening and continued throughout the night and subsequent day and night until 1pm on the Sunday afternoon! Hence why it was called a Marathon tournament. Something that we have since successfully replicated in the UK.

In January 2005 I was appointed as the Assistant Coach to the GB Women’s squad and before too long was heading off to my first European Championships (in Belgium). Many more trips have followed (either as a coach or an official) to various destinations around the world. All the while I have been busy working to help grow the sport as an employee (of RNIB and now Goalball UK) and an enthusiastic volunteer.  

The London Paralympics in 2012 was an obvious highlight. I have also been fortunate to be involved in a home World Championships (Sheffield in 2010) and a home European Championships (Worcester in 2013) and I hope to be involved in a home World Games (Birmingham in 2023) when goalball will be one of 11 sports for athletes with visual impairments being showcased.

Having said all that, I get just as much satisfaction, if not more, from being involved with small, local events – be it taster sessions for schools or community groups; club training sessions; or Regional Novice tournaments.

The Goalball UK tagline is ‘Transforming People’s Lives’. This is definitely not just a gimmicky slogan. It is true and we have lots of our stories to provide the evidence.

So, if you are still reading, thank you for persevering with my rambles! You will be pleased to hear that we have now reached the crux of the post, the call to action, your invite to become a player, coach or official so that goalball can transform your life too.

Goalball summer camp - the team smile for the camera on the goalball court.

The Goalball UK 21/22 season is about to begin with clubs returning to training and competitions scheduled to take place (around England). So come and be part of the amazing #GoalballFamily:

For more information, please phone me on 07795 263642 or send me an email.

If you want to know more about how the sport is played, this Paralympics A to Z video provides a good overview. I have also recorded a short video for the forthcoming Nystagmus Network Open Day.

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