The jingle of a bell, the roll of a ball, the roar of the crowd—these are the sounds of goalball, an adaptive sport designed for athletes who are blind or visually impaired. Elizabeth Daugherty, a College of Education junior, has been playing the unique, inclusive sport for years and is now excited to establish a collegiate league at UT Austin.
Daugherty, who is blind, knows the value exercise brings to students with disabilities. Looking back at the confidence she gained on the court, she wants to encourage more people to explore adaptive sports.
“Growing up, I had lower self-esteem until I got active,” Daugherty says. “When I started playing in team sports, I felt better about myself and more comfortable in my own skin. That’s why I want to pursue a career in adaptive physical education. It’s a basic right for people to have this feeling.”
Her achievements were rewarded when she received the 2018-19 Ford La Bauve Endowed Scholarship, made possible by Services for Students with Disabilities. The scholarship, amounting to more than $3,000, will allow Daugherty to dedicate more time to her new venture.
Perhaps the greatest benefit of the sport, she says, is that it’s a lot of fun. The game consists of two teams of three people who must score points by hurling a ball with a bell inside it into the opposing team’s net. All players wear eyeshades and use their other senses to navigate the court.
“People compare it to dodgeball and soccer,” says Daugherty. “The whole team works together as much as they can to slide the ball into the net. Players are diving to stop the ball and it can get very competitive and intense.”
Over the summer, Daugherty has been coaching her teams at goalball tournaments in Round Rock and San Antonio. She has also been helping students develop independent living skills at a summer camp program within the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired. In true coach fashion, she is not willing to take “no” for an answer from her students for team players.
“It makes me sad when I see the students I’m working with lacking the confidence in their abilities to live independently,” Daugherty says. “We are all capable of living independently and living life to the fullest—another right all people should have. I would love to help people achieve that.”