Kids Love Sports Too
Reprinted from Future Reflections
whole world has gone crazy. Sports crazy, that is.
pack stadiums by the tens of thousands to watch millionaires
hit, catch, throw, tackle, shoot, drive, and run. The
airwaves are crammed with games of all sorts and even
the commercials during non-sports programs feature athlete-superstars
hyping everything from beer to bouquets.
the time they are tiny, kids are encouraged (sometimes
pushed) to become involved in sports. Most boys and
girls are active in at least one sport, and for some
the pursuit of athletic excellence is the most important
aspect of their daily lives.
parents feel this emphasis on sports, especially the
exaggerated competitiveness so common in kids' sports
today, is out of control. Others view sports as essential
to physical, social, and mental well-being. But right
or wrong, our children are surrounded by sports of all
sorts every day. And blind kids are no different.
Parents play a major role in helping their blind children
enjoy sports, both as participants and spectators. Every
family has different interests, and this should come
through naturally with a blind child. If your family
loves basketball, your blind child will, too. if you
are into car racing, no doubt your blind child will
be a race fan. And there is no reason why a blind child
can't enjoy the same sports as his sighted peers, as
a fan, or a participant or both. My 11-year old son
shares my love for sports, and it is something that
will always keep us close.
key is alternative techniques and being creative. Since
a blind child can't see the game, it's helpful for a
parent to become a good "play by play" announcer. It's
surprising how easy and how much fun this is. With a
little practice and a little knowledge about the game,
a parent can become a good announcer in no time. Listen
carefully to a radio announcer (for the common team
sports), paying special attention to how he "locates"
the action on the field or court. If you don't know
all the players by heart, jot down the lineups for quick
reference. It doesn't hurt to have your child write
or Braille them up before you go to the game. Having
a "picture" of the playing field, either in large print,
Braille, or raised dot relief, helps a child follow
the action better. My boy likes to Braille the football
positions, offensive and defensive, for different formations.
We refer to them when we discuss the plays.
to keep up with the action, and keep your child involved
in the game by frequently updating the score and the
game situation. Show your excitement. Describe the crowd,
the colors, the surroundings (and for the boys, don't
forget the cheerleaders). A good seat at the football
or baseball stadium is worth just as much to a blind
kid as to anyone else. In fact, the closer you are to
the field or court the more action you will hear.
forget the details. Describe the tall guy with the bald
head. Read the advertising on the right field wall.
Point out the kid in the first row who is working on
his third hot dog and got mustard all over his shirt.
All of these things are part of a sporting event and
you need to share whatever catches your eye.
announcers are preferable to TV because they must provide
all the details. But it's a mistake to rely exclusively
on radio for a blind child who is learning about the
game because the announcer assumes a level of understanding
that the child doesn't have. The parent knows the child's
perspective and interests and can do a much better job.
Besides, there's more to enjoy at a ball game than just
the game action. The child wants to be with the parent
and enjoy the sounds and smells and feel of the event.
A pair of headphones clamped over the child's ears can
take him or her right out of the stands. Older children
who have a working knowledge of the game can enjoy listening
to broadcasts but will still prefer the contact of a
kids love to read about sports, too, a fact that should
not be lost on teachers and parents who want their blind
students to read and write more. Parents who read the
sports pages in the newspaper should consider reading
out loud for the benefit of their blind child. [Or sign
your child up for NFB Newsline for the Blind, for newspapers
free over the telephone. Call 410-659-9314 to sign up.]
Frequently I will come across an article in my favorite
sport magazine that I know will interest my son, so
I key or scan it into his computer and print a copy
in Braille for him. And he has quite a collection of
baseball, football, and basketball cards which he has
Brailled with his slate and stylus. He writes letters
to his favorite athletes and follows their exploits
in the news. Kids love to talk sports and trade cards.
Blind kids should not be left out of this important
our blind children can enjoy sports as spectators. But
what about participation? They want action, not just
words! And they can have it. Naturally some sports are
more accessible to blind kids than others. Swimming
is a good example. There are also many talented blind
wrestlers. Some blind people are into jogging with a
sighted companion. The martial arts are a challenge
to the blind but are very rewarding; my son is fortunate
to have an excellent, young, and very patient karate
instructor, and he is making steady progress.
are made to some sports specifically for blind participants,
such as bowling with a guide rail and/or gutter bumpers,
and beep baseball. But blind kids can participate in
other sports which might not seem accessible at first
blush. My son really enjoys a game of touch football
in the yard with the neighborhood kids. He has experimented
at nearly every position and does a pretty good job
at center. Football is a "touching" type sport
and is easier for him to relate to than baseball. He
also loves to play basketball in the driveway; dribbling
is no problem and, guided by a beeper attached to his
basket, he gets in some shots, too. Even though a blind
child may never get to play these team sports competitively,
playing with family and friends helps him or her understand
the games while getting some good healthy exercise.
blind children should expect, and get, the same physical
education at school as their sighted peers. We parents
must be sure that overly protective teachers and administrators
don't isolate our kids for fear they will get hurt.
Participation is important for their physical development
as well as their relationships to peers. Our kids are
entitled to an education, and this includes physical
we admit it; we are sports crazy, my blind son and I.
But don't call the shrink. Neither of us wants to get