Job search
Job Search

Growing the grassroots: Growing Goalball

Providing excellent opportunities for visually impaired people to get active, new CEO Mark Winder describes Goalball UK’s plans for attracting more players and setting up clubs across the country

Published in Sports Management Sep Oct 2017 issue 133
Read on turning pages | Download PDF of this issue
Winder is excited about Goalball’s growth
Winder is excited about Goalball’s growth

Goalball was originally created to rehabilitate soldiers after WWII and is the only sport designed specifically for the blind and visually impaired (VI). Played with blindfolds and a ball with bells inside it, it’s open to all levels of visual impairment at elite competitions, and absolutely anyone can play at a club level.

As the new CEO, I’m fortunate enough to be joining the sport at an incredibly exciting time for the grassroots game. Participation has increased by 425 per cent over the last funding cycle, meeting Sport England targets two years early. With over 30 clubs across the country – double the number active in 2012 – more people than ever are experiencing this fantastic sport.

Though we didn’t have teams at Rio, we’re still capitalising on the boost that London 2012 gave us. Several of our current Team GB players point to the London Games as a watershed moment for them. Unlike many other sports, which have struggled to keep up participation, our growth has been remarkable.

Team effort
This success has its roots in our vibrant regional clubs and the dedication of the volunteers who run them. We only have a handful of paid staff, making our small army of referees and coaches vital to the grassroots game. We often say that when you take up Goalball, you’re joining a community rather than a sport.

By hosting regular coaching courses around the country we’re able to renew our reserves of qualified volunteers as well as giving the friends and family of players the chance to be more actively involved. A volunteer shortage is the most significant barrier to our expansion and their recruitment is just as vital as attracting new players. Consequently, a lot of our campaign activity is focused on promoting individual clubs in order to raise their profile regionally.

The activity goal
Centrally, we’re very much aware of the thousands of VI people who could benefit from Goalball. Only one per cent of VI people currently have access to Goalball facilities and training, meaning tens of thousands of people are missing out on the very tangible health, social and economic benefits through participation in sport – and society as a whole is missing out on the contribution they could make. Our goal is to reach as many of them as possible.

The south west of the country, for example, currently has no regularly active clubs, and the remarkable response we’ve seen to the new London Elephants club makes it clear that more are needed in the capital to meet demand.

New funding from Sport England will be vital to this much needed expansion. The Towards an Active Nation strategy, launched last year, aligned perfectly with Goalball UK’s values, and the subsequent £1.4m from Sport England will help us to meet our ambitions and those of the Government.

Educating new players
The level of inactivity among VI people means that we reach many players through organisations and services that are unrelated to sport. Schools, charities and local councils are all routes to reach potential new players. Higher-education providers, in particular, have been incredibly active centres for the sport. As well at the Royal National College for the Blind (RNC), universities such as Cambridge University boast incredibly strong teams that have inspired others to get involved. We’ll continue to strengthen these relationships with a particular emphasis on school outreach and junior programmes, in order to reach younger players.

In Goalball, blackout goggles are worn, ensuring all players have the same level of blindness. This allows anyone to get involved. By holding more sessions in schools, VI kids will be able to get active with their sighted friends, simultaneously destigmatising visual impairment and introducing new players to the game.

Branching out
We also hope to build on previous successes in engaging traditionally inactive groups. The additional £200,000 from Sport England has been explicitly earmarked with this in mind. With it, we’ll be able to run more of our incredibly popular ‘This Girl Can’ sessions and support new clubs with the cost of hiring venues. This will make it possible to branch out into lower socio-economic locations and to reach VI people who have previously not had access to sport.

Growth will often be driven by the players themselves. Due to our exceptional retention rate, many of those who are involved with the sport progress to a point where they want to branch out into coaching or running a club. Laura Perry and Dan Roper, Team GB players, are good examples. After training at the RNC, they moved to Cambridgeshire and founded the Fen Tigers.

Elite inspiration
To us, grassroots and elite play are intrinsically linked. As our GB players aim for Tokyo 2020, they’re inspiring a new generation of players.

Goalball truly transforms lives and our aim is to ensure every VI person in the UK has the opportunity to discover the sport for themselves.

Sign up for FREE ezines & magazines
Sports jobs
Everyone Active
featured job

Swimming Teachers

Everyone Active
Salary: Competitive hourly rate
Job location: Nationwide, United Kingdom

Recreation Assistant (Lifeguard)

Salary: Up to £10.20 per hour
Location: Barnet

Centre Manager

Legacy Leisure
Salary: £27,000
Location: Exeter

Sports and Recreation Attendant

Global Spa and Wellness Leader
Salary: Competitive and negotiable
Location: United Kingdom


Global Spa and Wellness Leader
Salary: Competitive and negotiable
Location: United Kingdom

Fitness Instructor

Global Spa and Wellness Leader
Salary: Competitive and negotiable
Location: United Kingdom

Sport and Recreation Coordinator

Global Spa and Wellness Leader
Salary: Competitive and negotiable
Location: United Kingdom

Sports and Recreation Manager (Fitness Manager)

Global Spa and Wellness Leader
Salary: Competitive and negotiable
Location: United Kingdom

Deputy Chief Executive / Director of Business

Aspire Sports and Cultural Trust
Salary: Excellent salary and benefit package
Location: Gloucester, UK

Operations Manager

Live Active Leisure
Salary: £29,488 - £31,835
Location: Perth, UK
recruiting with sports management

Swimming Teacher (STA or Swim England Level 2)

Filton Town Council
Salary: £13.50 to £14.62 per hour
Location: Filton, Bristol, UK

Swimming Teachers

Salary: Competitive
Location: Nationwide, United Kingdom

Fitness Manager

Legacy Leisure
Salary: £18,000-£20,000 dependant on experience
Location: Bicester OX26 2NR, UK

Recreation Assistant -North Hykeham

Location: North Hykeham, Lincoln, UK

Swimming Project Manager (UK Travel)

Location: Stratford, London, UK

General Manager

The Gym Group
Salary: up to £37,000 + c20% bonus
Location: Tottenham, London, United Kingdom

Duty Manager

Mytime Active
Salary: £18000 - £23000 per annum
Location: Kent, England, UK
recruiting with sports management

Recreation Assistant (Lifeguard)

Salary: Up to £16,187 per annum (39 hours a weeks pro rata)
Location: Wokington, Cumbria, UK

Recreation Assistant (Lifeguard)

Salary: Up to £10.20 per hour
Location: Croydon, UK

Recreation Assistant (Lifeguard)

Salary: Up to £7.96 per hour
Location: Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire

Recreation Assistant

Salary: Up to £16,143 per annum (39 hours a weeks pro rata)
Location: Appleby-in-Westmorland, UK

Sports Marketing and Development Assistant

Aston University
Salary: £16,654 to £18,777 per annum
Location: Aston, Birmingham, United Kingdom

Aquadome Life Guard

Merton Hotel
Salary: Competitive Salary & Benefits
Location: Jersey

Health and Fitness Centre Manager

Cheltenham Ladies' College Sports Centre
Salary: Up to £31,000, depending on skills and experience
Location: Cheltenham, UK
training with sports management

Duty Manager

Legacy Leisure
Salary: £17,000-£17,400
Location: Kidlington, UK

Apprentice Recreation Assistant (Lifeguard)

Salary: Up to £21,284 per annum
Location: Kentish Town, North West London

Senior Recreation Assistant (Lifeguard)

Salary: Up to £22,320 per annum
Location: Epsom, Surrey

Assistant General Manager

The Gym Group
Salary: up to £22,000
Location: Feltham, United Kingdom

Recreation Assistant (Lifeguard)

Salary: Up to £7.96 per hour
Location: Woodstock, Oxfordshire

Recreation Assistant (Lifeguard)

Salary: Up to £16,187 per annum
Location: Swindon, Wiltshire, UK

Recreation Assistant (Lifeguard)

Salary: Up to £16,187 per annum (39 hours a week pro rata)
Location: Swindon, Wiltshire
apprenticeships jobs  lifeguard jobs  swimming teacher jobs  Gymnastics Coach jobs  Swimming instructor jobs  recreation assistant jobs  duty manager jobs  personal trainer jobs  fitness instructor jobs  general manager jobs  assistant general manager jobs  Sales Manager jobs 
More jobs

Catalogue Gallery

BSW: BSW is a manufacturer of sports floorings, sports mats, gym flooring, elastomer products for impact sound insulation and vibration isolation, anti-slip mats for securing loads as well as protective and separating layers.
JP Lennard: Leading supplier to Commercial Swimming Pools, Leisure Centres, Health & Fitness Clubs, Hotels, Holiday Parks, Schools and Universities, supplying thousands of products directly into these sectors.
More catalogues

Video Gallery

Fitness On Demand
No More Empty Studios. Seriously. Fitness On Demand™ Virtual Group Fitness.
Visit website
More videos

Company profile

Company profile: Rephouse Europa Ltd
Rephouse is a leading manufacturer of high-performance fitness flooring systems. With its state-of-the-art production technology and more than 32 years of hands-on experience in production and installation worldwide, Rephouse can ensure a premium-quality rubber fitness flooring product tailormade for any facility.
View full profile >
More company profiles

Featured Supplier

AJ Products offers surprisingly more to help you stay active and love your workplace
AJ Products (UK) Ltd. is a supplier of office and workplace furniture, lockers and changing room facilities, canteen furniture, shelving and racking, premises management equipment and much more.
View full details >
More featured suppliers

Property & Tenders

Location: Dundonald International Ice Bowl
Company: Lisburn and Castlereagh Council
Location: Port Talbot
Company: Neath Port Talbot County Borough Council
Location: White Rocks, Hastings
Company: GVA
Company: Gravesham Borough Council
More properties & tenders

Diary dates

27-28 Jun 2018
Exhibition Centre Liverpool, Liverpool, United Kingdom
02-03 Jul 2018
The Principal, Manchester
11 Jul 2018
Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre, Westminster, United Kingdom
28 Aug - 01 Sep 2018
tbc, Sao Paulo, Brazil
More diary dates