Photo Credit: Kaylee Davis
A lot goes through an athlete’s mind when playing a sport. The athlete likely focuses on strategy, communication and playing correctly.
Each sport is different in regards to the thoughts athletes have in their minds while playing. Athletes also differ in how they think and each individual likely has a unique perspective on their performance as well as insights on how their team and opponent play.
I play goalball and many different thoughts go through my mind while playing. My mind thinks frequently about strategy and communicating with teammates, but the best thing for me is to not think much at all.
Finding open or weak gaps in goalball is important for teams looking to score. I work with my coaches and teammates to figure out which gaps are either open or weak. My team and I collectively build a scouting report as a game progresses and try to figure out our opponent’s strengths and weaknesses. The teams I’ve played on usually avoid the opposing team’s top athlete and try to find the athlete who might be struggling or not covering a gap well.
My team first rolls the ball into all five gaps exploring which ones have a higher percentage of our team scoring. I rely on cues from my coach who usually keeps a clipboard keeping track of how many goals were scored by each team.
My coach provides feedback to me on which gaps I should aim for, but does a lot more. My coach will talk to me during timeouts or stoppages in play to correct my rolling and defensive forms. My mind then shifts to listening to my coach’s feedback and then performing the way my coach would like me to.
I often get critical of how I defend or roll the goalball. I was taught to roll the goalball with power while maintaining a smooth throw. I think of the proper steps to follow while getting ready to roll the ball which includes making sure I square my body up with the goal behind me, use proper footwork, find a good grip on the ball, maintain a good wind up and have a smooth release. My coach has made defense a simple decision for me. I need to quickly decide whether I stay on the line I am assigned to cover or whether I go and defend a gap. The decision to stay or go is made by me listening to the ball and trying to react as fast as I possibly can in order to block the ball.
My teammates and I are only successful if we communicate often. There have been times during competitions where a teammate or I stop communicating and the game usually gets out of hand for my team. Calling out simple cues such as where we think the ball is before it’s thrown helps improve communication. I have to constantly remind myself to say “got it” after I make a block. The “got it” phrase informs my team that I’ve made the block. Saying the word “loose” is essential if I blocked the ball, but lost track of where it went.
Knowing whether you’ve scored or missed on a roll is important. The official blows the whistle twice if a goal is scored and that auditory cue gives me the indication of being successful on the roll. My coach also informs me of which gap I rolled the ball to on a scoring play. My coach, during a stoppage in play, will inform me of how far off I was from scoring on a play where I don’t get the ball to cross the goal line.
Injuries are a part of sports, but not everyone notices them. I have a tendency to get hurt while playing at times. Sometimes I’ll get hurt if I don’t get into the proper defensive position. The impact or injury is usually to my face when I don’t get into the correct defensive form. Sometimes injuries just occur as they do in other sports. I usually don’t figure out when I’m bleeding unless I feel the liquid during a stoppage in play or a coach or official asks me to go to my team bench to be examined by proper medical personnel.
I’ve been told that I must get into the proper defensive form and must use my arms to cover my face to prevent future injuries to my head. The key in this situation is just remembering to slow down and follow all steps of getting into the right defensive form.
What goes on in my mind might be interesting to those who may watch or play goalball with me. My coach always tells me to not overthink while playing. My performance actually improves when I don’t think too much about how I should roll the ball or how I should dive. Reducing what I am thinking of and remembering to have fun helps me enhance my play on the goalball court.