4 para sports to introduce to your class
Big sporting events are often inspiring and can be the trigger to try a new sport or activity. The Paralympics are no different. Here are four sports - Sitting Volleyball, Guide Running, Boccia and Goalball, featured at the Paralympics that you can try in your lessons. Below you will find information on the background to each sport and everything you will need to get started.
Sitting volleyball first made an appearance at the Arnhem Paralympic games in 1980 as a men’s sport. The women’s competition was added in 2004 for the Athens Games. The origin however goes back much further. Many people were left wounded following World War II and the benefits of sport as part of rehabilitation were encouraged. There is evidence of people playing volleyball while sitting on the floor as early as 1943 and over the following decade it developed into a competitive sport. It was first international match was in 1967, in Flensburg, Germany.
Today sitting volleyball is an inclusive game with disabled and able-bodied players in both same sex and mixed teams playing at a club level. At the international level players must meet the WOVD Disability classification rules.
What is Sitting Volleyball?
Sitting volleyball largely follows the rules of Volleyball with a few minor differences.
- The court is smaller 10m x 6m and the net is lower (Junior 1m, Women 1.05m, Mixed 1.10m, Men 1.15m).
- Players must have one part of their core (buttocks to shoulders) touching the ground when playing (making contact with) the ball.
- When serving a player’s buttocks must be behind the back line on their side of the court.
- Players are permitted to ‘block’ the Service.
Typically, there are six players on a team and the position rotate when the team wins back the serve. This isn’t a static game. Players can move about by using their hands to slide about on court. Just remember to keep at least one buttock on the floor!
Adapt for your sessions
Court sizes and number of players can be adjusted to suit the abilities of the players (and your space). A smaller court will make it easier and require less movement. You could also increase the number of players slightly to make it easier to maintain a rally.
The Ball – traditional volleyballs can move quickly making it harder to spot and react to the play. Starting new players with a balloon ball gives everyone more time to ‘see’ the play and react accordingly. This helps build confidence with early success before moving on to a faster ball.
The Net – adjusting the height of the net for the players. A higher net can actually give players more time to ‘see’ the ball as it will hang in the air for longer. Using pop up nets such as mini tennis nets can offer a suitable height.
Encouraging multiple touches before playing the ball back over the net not only improves skills it also promotes good communication on court, who is picking up the ball? who are they passing it to? Is there a space to score into?
Running has been a sport for longer than we have records so it’s no surprise that it is featured in the Paralympics. For those with partial or full sight loss Guide Runners can help with navigating and negotiating uneven terrain. Runners can either be linked with a tether or simply be guided with verbal directions. Communication is key and will vary depending on the partnership.
What is Guide Running?
The rules are largely the same as races that follow the same length with a few differences:
- The partially sighted runners run with a sighted runner as a guide. In race formats this is often done using a tether. Some pleasure runners prefer to get verbal guidance.
- The guided runner must cross the finish line before the guide otherwise both runners are disqualified.
Adapt for your sessions
Being guided through a course with impeded vision can help improve communication skills and trust between the two parties. It can also show children who usually have no impediments to their eyesight what it might feel like to live with partial or full sight loss.
Children will work in pairs. Each pair will need a blindfold and team band or something similar to use as a tether. Hold the tether rather than wrapping it around the hand. They can then take it in turns to guide and be guided.
Start by walking the course and build up to running if the children are comfortable doing so. Each pair will need to progress at their own pace.
British Blind Sport and England Athletics have a ‘Find a Guide’ database to link Runners and guides together. Both guides and runners must be 18+ to use the service. Welsh Athletics offer coaching courses including a Guide Running Workshop (timings may vary)
A Paralympic sport with no Olympic equivalent Boccia (pronounced bot-cha) is similar to bowls. It derives its name from the Italian word meaning bowl.
Boccia is thought to be one of the first sports played by mankind in ancient Greece and Egypt and it is believed large stones were thrown instead of balls.
Originally designed for people with Cerebral Palsy, Boccia is now played by people with a wide range of disabilities. For competition they are split into different classifications.
Boccia was introduced to the Paralympic games in 1984 with 19 athletes representing 5 countries. Now there are over 50 countries that are members of the Boccia International Sports Federation (BISFed) one of the fasted growing disability sports in the world.
What is Boccia?
Boccia is an a attack and defend game with two sides competing. The aim is to score as many points as possible by getting your set of coloured balls closer to the white jack ball. Played on a smooth flat surface Boccia is ideal for sports halls. The balls can be thrown or kicked and a ramp and head pointer can be used to assist play.
- Boccia is played on a court 12.5m x 6m with 2m of clear space around it. Badminton court markings can be adapted for the set up with court tape.
- The throwing end is split into six throwing boxes that the athletes must stay in for during play.
- The V shaped line must be crossed for the throw to be valid.
- All players must be seated during a game.
- A game consists of a series of ends.
- Singles (1v1) & Pairs (2v2) = 4 ends
- Teams (3v3) = 6 ends
- An end consists of all 13 balls being propelled onto court (the jack, 6 red and 6 blue).
- Decided using a coin toss, the winning player/captain chooses to be red or blue.
- Both sides must occupy a designated box on the court from where balls are propelled.
- The red side always begins the first end by propelling the jack into court.
- In a pairs or team match each player propels the jack onto court in turn.
- In a singles match both players will alternate twice.
- The player who propels the jack ball also propels their first coloured ball.
- A player from the opposite side then propels their first coloured ball.
- The side not closest to the jack plays until they get closer, or run out of balls.
- The end is complete when all balls from both sides have been propelled.
- One point is awarded for every ball of the same colour, which is closest to the jack.
- Points scored each end are accumulated to give a final score.
Created by Hanz Lorenzen and Sepp Reindl in 1946, Goalball was designed to support the rehabilitation of soldiers who had become visually impaired in World War II.
By 1976 the Sport was being trialled at the Paralympics and the first World Championships held in 1978. Goalball was officially included in the 1980 Paralympics Games in Arnhem.
Domestically this is a truly inclusive sport where fully sighted athletes can also play. This is due to everyone wearing eye shades so no one can see. The ball contains bells so the players can track it by sound and the court markings are tactile so the players can feel where they are.
What is Goalball?
The idea is simple. Score goals by bowling the ball past the opposing team into their goal. Each team has three players.
- The Goalball court measure 18m long x 9m wide and is divided in to six areas of 3m.
- Raised lines on the court allow players to feel the playing areas and the ball.
- The Team areas is the first zone from the goal line. Here, defenders can block and control the ball to prevent it entering the goal.
- The next section is the landing area. The attacking player can move around in this section to take a shot at the oppositions goal.
- The Neutral areas in the centre provide a safe zone and gives the defending team to hear the ball coming.
- The ball is made of hard rubber (Senior 25cm diameter) and has two bells in to
These rules are taken from Goalball UK, the national governing body for goalball in the United Kingdom.
- A coin toss decides which team starts with the ball.
- After a goal, the defending team becomes the attacking team and the game is restarted.
- When the ball is thrown there are four possible scenarios:
- goal (ball crosses opponent's goal line) — game restarted by the team that conceded the goal
- block (defending team prevents a goal) — game continues and defending team becomes the attacking team
- ball thrown over the sideline — game restarted by the other team
- block out (ball blocked but crosses the sideline) — game restarted by the team that blocked the ball
- The opposition receives the ball if players do not keep to these rules.
- Players can move anywhere within their team zone to throw the ball.
- Underarm throwing or rolling only - no kicking.
- When the ball is thrown, it must land before the end of their team zone.
- No player is to have two consecutive shots.
- To block a shot, a defending player must have at least one body part (such as their hand or foot) touching their mat.
- Players must not remove eyeshades.
- A team has ten seconds from retrieving the ball to take their shot
Adapt for your sessions
The Goalball is made from hard rubber and can be daunting for new players. The lighter Kixz football has bells and is low bounce so can offer a good alternative for new and younger players. Official games use fully blacked out goggles for a more secure fit. For getting started blindfolds can work well. As with other games you can adjust the size of the court to fit your space and for the age and ability of the class.