Friday, August 7, 2015

The Games Begin!

August 7, 2015

Today marked the beginning of games for wheelchair basketball in the 2015 Parapan Am Games. My role as a volunteer is in the Athlete Services crew. Our role is to stage the wheelchairs before practices and games as well as transport them back to the “pit”, or storage area. Our games supervisor has jokingly, but somewhat seriously, named our crew the “super pit crew”. The name seems to fit because we are almost always on our feet rushing around to make sure things are ready for the athletes. Luckily today I was in the morning crew so I got to experience the kickoff of the first basketball games. To no surprise, the athletes are very skilled. The sport of wheelchair basketball doesn’t flow as well as basketball by able-bodied players but that is made up by the energy and intensity of the players. I have no doubt that there will be some very good games throughout the tournament, especially in the medal rounds. Also, since the Access Control crew was short-staffed I got to fill in in one of their positions for a little while and got to check out most of the Brazil & Puerto Rico game. Overall, everyone I have worked with has been very positive and helpful and our supervisors are doing a good job at having a plan in place to make sure the events proceed smoothly.

After my shift was over I got a workout in at one of the best gyms in Canada. I had previously heard about the place before coming on the trip so it was definitely on my bucket list of places to visit while I’m here. I am an exercise science major so anything to do with athletics and training highly interests me. I also plan on getting into some type of performance based coaching at a facility like this so having a conversation with the owner of the gym was also a cool experience.

             One of the less known sports at the games is the sport of Goalball. It is a sport specifically designed for visually impaired athletes. Goalball is played 3 on 3, with the teams alternating turns to try to roll the ball into their opponent’s goal. Since the athletes are visually impaired, the court is labeled with many tactile lines so that they can feel their way around the court and know where they are in relation to their team’s zone and their own goal. The ball is filled with bells so that its location can be heard. All athletes are also outfitted with eyeshades to make sure everyone is on a level playing field. If I had to describe it in relation to other sports, when the offensive team rolls the ball in an attempt to score, it looks much like how a bowler would roll a bowling ball. On defense, the three players lay flat on the ground in a horizontal fashion much how a goalie would in soccer. The objective by the defensive team is to lay in way that takes up as much space as possible, therefore blocking the goal as much as possible. Games consist of two 12 minute halves, with each scored goal counting as one point. The team with the most points at the end of regulation is declared the winner. If at any time there is a penalty, the penalized team must defend their goal with only one player for one defensive round. 

--Zach King

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