Nov 09, 2017

USABA Competitive and Recreational Community Sports Integration Project for Veterans

A key component of military service, regardless of the era, is challenging one’s physical abilities. Remember all of those long ruck marches, unit fun runs, and PT tests? Yes, like many of you I try not to as well, but one cannot argue against the amount of research and information about the benefits of exercise to combat adverse health and mental health conditions. More importantly, organizations like USABA, Team Red, White, and Blue, Achilles, and your local sporting groups built tremendous communities with a vested interest in the well-being of those who elect to participate.

USABA just rolled out a new program aiming to encourage visually impaired Veterans’ participation in local adaptive sporting and athletic events. The Community Sports Integration Project funds visually impaired Veterans registration and travel, so that they have the opportunity to participate in competitive and recreational sports in their local and regional community. Through a VA adaptive sporting grant, USABA will provide Veterans reimbursements for entry fees for the following events:
• 5k to marathons
• Cycling events
• Triathlons, (Sprint and Olympic distance only)
• Powerlifting meets
• Rowing regattas
• Challenge events like Tuff Mudders and Warrior Dashes
• Swim meets
• Other competitions and tournaments for golfing, bowling, sailing, and other sporting and athletic events.

* Please note, multi-day events, camps, and ‘tours’ will not be considered. Likewise, events utilizing funds from the VA Adaptive Sports Grant will not be covered due to VA policies. Veterans will be provided t-shirts and other apparel to wear while competing when sport applicable. 

Any visually impaired Veteran may apply, regardless of your age, whether you are recreationally participating or fighting to win, or location. Funding is available on a first come, first serve basis for any event starting November 10th, 2017 until September 30th, 2018. If this interests you, here are the project’s guidelines:
1. Contact the project coordinator with information about the event you wish to participate. The coordinator will provide initial approval, along with a packet containing USABA apparel to wear during the event.
2. Participate in the event wearing the USABA apparel and share a photo of you on social media with the tags, USABA and VA Adaptive Sports. If you do not have any social media accounts, send the project coordinator a photo of you so they might perform this step.
3.  Submit your official result to the project coordinator. This can be submitted as a link to race results or a printed result.
4. Mileage stipends will be considered for events more than 50 miles away one way. Stipends will be capped at $75. Please seek approval before regional events from the project coordinator.
5. Reimbursements must be submitted to the project coordinator by the 10th of each month to receive
 the same month. Reimbursements may cover the registration costs for both the Veteran and their sighted guide (if the activity requires one) and travel up to $75 (waivers are available).
A current USABA membership is required to participate in the program.  Click here for the membership sign up page.  

If you have questions, please contact the project coordinator before your event. The project coordinators are:

Timothy Hornik
.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
(785) 330-3503

Kevin Brousard
Membership & Outreach Coordinator, USABA
.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
(719) 866-3019

Oct 02, 2017

Utah Rage boys and girls sweep Cascade Classic Youth Tournament

By: Ken Armbruster

The youth Goalball season kicked off this weekend at the Washington School for the Blind, with teams from Utah,  Colorado, Washington and Oregon competing.  Both the Utah boys and girls went undefeated through the tournament.  Members of the boy's team coached by Josh Wellborn and Tony Jepson, were Robby Calandrelli, Shane Huking, and Zach Ledford.  Their final match was strongly contested against the Oregon team.  The girl’s strong defense shut out the Washington School for the Blind in the championship game.  Team members were Elizabeth Chantry, Adia Estes, Megan Jenson and Mykol Clark. The girls were coached by Rachel Jepson and Marybai Huking.  Tournament Director, Jen Armbruster stated this was a great opening event in the Cascade Classic series which will be followed by the Regional tournament February 9-11 and the College/D2 tournament in the spring. 

Sep 27, 2017

U.S. Goalball Center of Excellence Welcomes First Class of Female Resident Athletes

In October 2015, the U.S. Association of Blind Athletes (USABA) partnered with Turnstone Center in Fort Wayne, Indiana, to establish the first-ever U.S. Men’s Resident Goalball Program. The resident program would allow athletes to train together full-time and live within walking distance of training facilities. As a result, the U.S. Men earned silver at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games just one year later. The U.S. Women, historically one of the best goalball programs in the world, defeated host-country Brazil for bronze. While the U.S. Women had a resident program many years ago, at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, the program was not sustained and athletes have been training individually at locations across the country.

Now, after securing additional funding from Fort Wayne Residents Mr. Ron Plassman and his wife, Suzanna, USABA and Turnstone will welcome female athletes to Fort Wayne for the first-ever long-term U.S. Women’s Goalball Resident Program. Like their male counterparts, female resident athletes will train together full-time and live within walking distance of the training facilities. The first group to participate in the program includes Paralympians and up and coming goalball athletes, all of whom will be coached by U.S. Women’s Goalball Head Coach, Jake Czechowski who relocated to Fort Wayne in August.

Paralympians Lisa Czechowski, Amanda Dennis and Eliana Mason used to live and train in Tucson, Atlanta and Portland, respectively, but will now train together five days a week at Turnstone.

“Training every day will improve our team as a whole immensely and help us reach our fullest potential,” said Mason. “Goalball is a difficult sport to practice on your own. It’s time-consuming to set up the court and you need complete silence when working on defense. Without a court and quiet venue, there is a lot of limitation for growth.”

For a team sport like goalball, it is critical that team members practice together frequently. Before the resident program was established, goalball players were traveling to a central location once every three to four months for a weekend-long intense training camp with months of solo practice between training camps. In addition to making the team more cohesive, the resident program is also helping athletes realize goals and dreams they’ve had since being introduced to the sport.

“Being part of the Women’s Resident Program means I’m one step closer to accomplishing my goals of making the Tokyo 2020 team and coaching goalball at my alma mater,” said up-and-coming goalball athlete, Vanessa Coleman.

Though Coleman, Mason and Shavon Lockhardt will arrive in Fort Wayne shortly before training begins on October 2, Rio 2016 Paralympic bronze medalists Czechowski and Dennis are already on the ground. 
“Everyone has been so helpful,” said Dennis. “The staff at Turnstone, friends and family of people who attend Turnstone and even some of the Uber drivers in Fort Wayne have been really helpful,” said Dennis. “They’ve helped us acclimate to our new home by offering good advice on things to do and giving up time during their day to be good mentors!”

These five athletes make up the inaugural class of female resident athletes training full-time at the U.S. Goalball Center of Excellence. Coleman, Czechowski, Dennis, Lockhardt and Mason will begin training full-time under the direction of Head Coach Jake Czechowski on Monday, October 2. To learn more about each of the resident athletes, check out their bios below.

Lisa Czechowski
Lisa Czechowski is a five-time Paralympian and four-time Paralympic medalist. Most recently, Lisa helped the U.S. Women’s Goalball Team earn bronze at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games. She also has gold and silver Paralympic medals in goalball from the Beijing 2008 and Athens 2004 Games, respectively. However, her first Paralympic medal (silver) came from the Sydney 2000 Games for her success in the F12 discus event. In addition to being a track & field Paralympian, Lisa was also a member of the U.S. Women’s Goalball Team at the Sydney 2000 Paralympic Games.

Lisa was born with nystagmus and diagnosed with cone dystrophy in middle school. She was participating in track & field events when she was introduced to the sport of goalball by an Adaptive P.E. teacher her sophomore year of high school. She continued competing in track & field events earning success in shot put and discus before she also began focusing on goalball after her competitive season in 2001.

In 2004, Lisa met her now husband, Jake Czechowski, at a USABA Sports Education Camp in Colorado Springs. The two married in January of 2009 and had their first son, Jay, in 2014. Jake served as the Assistant Head Coach for the U.S. Women’s Goalball Team before he was promoted to Head Coach following the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games. Lisa, Jake and Jay recently relocated to Fort Wayne to devote more time to her training and Jake’s coaching at the Goalball Center of Excellence.

Lisa thanks many for helping her get to where she is today. “There are so many people I thank for helping me get this point in my athletic career: my husband, family, coaches, friends, teammates, and so many others. It has taken a team of people supporting me in so many areas to help me get to where I am today. I am so grateful for all of the support I have and cannot thank everyone enough for pushing me to achieve my goals and supporting me while I worked to achieve them.”

Classification: B2
Height: 5’4”
Birthdate: May 29, 1979
Hometown: Boonton, N.J.
Current Residence: Fort Wayne, Ind.
High School: Boonton High School
College: Desales University ’01, Criminal Justice
Motto: Success is a journey, not a destination.”
Favorite cheat food: Cookies

Career Highlights:
Five-time Paralympian (2000, 2004, 2008, 2012, 2016)
Rio 2016 Paralympic Games – bronze, goalball
London 2012 Paralympic Games – 8th, goalball
Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games – silver, goalball
Athens 2004 Paralympic Games – silver, goalball
Sydney 2000 Paralympic Games – silver, discus

Vanessa Coleman
Growing up, Vanessa Coleman’s family and friends simply thought she was clumsy when she bumped into things or had a hard time following the soccer ball on a field. At 9 years old though, it became apparent there was a reason for her clumsiness. In 2010, Vanessa was diagnosed with Stargardt disease, a juvenile form of macular degeneration. The next year, Vanessa transferred to the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind where she learned about the sport of goalball.

As it turned out, Vanessa had a natural propensity for the Paralympic sport. She took to it quickly, winning high school national championships and earning spots on junior national teams. Since finding the sport, she was named to the All-American Team for 5 consecutive years and was named MVP at the USABA High School Goalball National Championships in 2015 and 2016.

“Playing goalball has taught me how to be strong, and not just physically. The mental aspect of the game is amazing. It’s taught me how to stay calm and not crack under pressure. Goalball has also given me a community of people I can connect with who truly understand the difficulty of living with limited vision. It has even given me a few that I might even say I consider family. My teammates are my family and I look out for them and support them no matter what.”

Vanessa credits her coach at Florida School, James Crozier, for helping her become the athlete and person she is today. “Coach Crozier has always been there to offer advice and he taught me how to play. He never gave up on me and because of that, I have so much respect for him. Without all of the life lessons he taught me and all of the training he put me through, I definitely would not be who I am or where I am today.”

Vanessa hopes to make the U.S. Women’s Goalball Team and compete at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games and aspires to one day give back to FSDB by serving as Head Goalball Coach.

Classification: B2/B3
Height: 5’1”
Birthdate: May 26, 1999
Hometown: Lakeland, Fla.
Current Residence: Fort Wayne, Ind.
High School: Florida School for the Deaf and Blind ‘17
Motto: “I can. I will. End of story.”
Favorite cheat food: Aussie Cheese Fries with Ranch from Outback Steakhouse

Connect with Vanessa on Instagram: @Queen_Coleman_737

Amanda Dennis
Born with aniridia and nystagmus, Amanda’s parents, Winfred and Elizabeth Dennis, encouraged to participate in adaptive sport. At 7 years old, Amanda attended a Sports Education Camp hosted by Blaze Sports and learned about goalball. She instantly fell in love with the sport.

Why goalball? “Goalball Is one of the only sports that creates an equal playing field for all blind and visually impaired participants. I love the game because I’m challenged every day. It’s also taught me discipline on the court and in everyday life.”

This year, Amanda is focused on getting stronger and becoming a more powerful offensive player on the court. In 2020, she wants to be part of the U.S. Women’s Goalball team winning gold at the Paralympic Games in Tokyo.

When she’s not improving her goalball game, Amanda enjoys being active outdoors, weightlifting and reading. She credits many for helping her get to this point in her athletic career but her parents top the list. “My parents are a huge reason I am who I am today. When I was little, they drove me an hour to practice in Atlanta, simply because I enjoyed playing goalball. They have always supported me both financially and psychologically, offering words of wisdom and verbal support. They have been the most involved with helping me grow as an athlete, whether it was through coaching, or the mental hiccups along the way. I wouldn’t be where I am today without them.”

When she’s not improving her goalball game, Amanda enjoys being active outdoors, weightlifting and reading. She enjoys reading fantasy books like Harry Potter, Divergent and Hunger Games.

Classification: B3
Height: 5’6”
Birthdate: February 5, 1994
Hometown: Peachtree City, Ga.
Current Residence: Fort Wayne, Ind.
High School: Lighthouse High School ‘12
College: University of Georgia ’15, Sports Management
Motto: “Almost every successful person begins with two beliefs; the future can be better than the present and I have the power to make it so.”
Favorite cheat food: Red velvet cake or any type of dessert

Career Highlights:
2016 Rio Paralympic Games - bronze
2015 ParaPan American Games - silver
2014 IBSA World Goalball Championships - gold
2013 Parapan American Games - gold
2012 Paralympic Games - 6th

Connect with Amanda on Twitter and Instagram: @Dennisamanda7

Shavon Lockhardt
Introduced to the sport in high school, Sahvon Lockhardt has been playing goalball for four years. “Goalball serves as a teacher for me. Not only do I enjoy playing, but it teaches me how to stay focused and not overthink.”

Born with macular degeneration, Shavon attended the New York Institute for the Blind near her hometown of Brooklyn from a young age. It is her former coach, Devin Bullock, and teammates Darryl Austen and Jahron Black she credits for helping her develop into the athlete and person she is today. “I give credit to my former coach, Devin, for reaching out and giving me the opportunity to play,” she said. “Major credit goes to Darryl and Jahron for working with me countless times on and off the court.”

Shavon aspires to travel the world playing the sport she loves at the highest level possible. Immediately, she wants to perfect her spin thrown and bounce ball on the court.

Outside of goalball, Shavon likes to make music. She looks up to her mother. “To me, [my mother] is the definition of strength.”

Classification: B2
Height: 5’7”
Birthdate: February 27, 1990
Hometown: Brooklyn, N.Y.
Current Residence: Fort Wayne, Ind.
High School: The New York Institute for the Blind ‘09
College: Kings Borough Community College
Motto: “Live and let live.”
Favorite cheat food: Good Chinese food

Career Highlights:
2016 USABA Goalball National Champions – 1st

Connect with Shavon on Twitter: @shaytaylorx3

Eliana Mason

Rio 2016 Paralympic medalist, Eliana Mason was introduced to goalball at a sports camp at the Washington State School for the Blind when she was 14 years old. A few months after giving the sport a try in Portland with members of the Women’s National Goalball Team, Eliana was invited to practice regularly with national team members and became very good at the sport.

“It’s not just a sport I enjoy playing, it is a passion and something that defines who I am. It is a game where I can compete on an equal playing field. It eliminates vision from the equation entirely. It’s a chance for me to work as an athlete to achieve my fullest potential and grow as a teammate and as an individual.”

Born with cataracts, Eliana’s lenses were removed but doctors were unable to replace them. She also lives with Glaucoma but that doesn’t stop her from doing her best at everything she puts her mind to. She’s got a supportive family that helps her strive for the best too. “I thank my supportive family, but specifically, my parents. They have always pushed me to work harder and have believed in my dream to make a Paralympic team. Weekly, my dad would work with me on throwing. My parents watch me play every chance they get and support the team by providing transportation and helping out at practice. I wouldn't be the person or the athlete I am today without the love and support of my parents and their unwavering belief in my ability to accomplish anything I put my mind to.”

Eliana looks up to her father who instilled his love for sports in her at a young age. “[My dad] is one of the hardest working, dedicated and supportive people I know. His love for sports was what originally pushed me into wanting to be an athlete. He has taught me what it takes to give your all and not quite once you’ve started something.”

Classification: B2
Height: 5’6”
Birthdate: September 1, 1995
Hometown: Beaverton, Ore.
Current Residence: Fort Wayne, Ind.
High School: International School of Beaverton High School
College: Portland State University, Psychology (minor: Public Health)
Motto: “I can and I will.”
Favorite cheat food: Fresh out of the oven chocolate chip cookies

Career Highlights:
Rio 2016 Paralympic Games – bronze
Toronto 2015 Parapan American Games – silver
2014 IBSA Wold Goalball Championships – gold

Connect with Eliana on Instagram: @elianaamarieee


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