Feb 28, 2017
Anthem Foundation and USABA Partner to Inspire Fitness
By: Courtney Patterson, USABA Staff
Anthem Foundation has once again graciously awarded the U.S. Association of Blind Athletes (USABA) grant funding for the National Fitness Challenge. This will be the fifth iteration of the USABA-Anthem National Fitness Challenge.
“The Anthem Foundation continues to empower and inspire youth and adults across the nation who are blind and visually impaired by supporting the National Fitness Challenge,” said USABA’s Executive Director, Mark Lucas. “We are honored and excited to once again partner with the Anthem Foundation to cultivate a healthier community.”
Established in 2011, the National Fitness Challenge has impacted the lives of more than 3,000 people who are blind and visually impaired across the U.S. The overall goal remains the same every year, to raise the physical activity levels of each participant to the level recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) - 30 minutes of moderate physical activity and 10,000 steps per day.
Research has consistently shown that individuals who participate in regular physical activity to improve their health have higher energy levels, a lower risk of health-related diseases, improved psychological health, and lower rates of depression and anxiety. Unfortunately, because of the numerous barriers and misconceptions about their abilities, more than half of those who are blind and visually impaired in the United States do not participate in even a limited physical fitness routine.
As it has in previous years’ National Fitness Challenge programs, technology will play a key role in motivating and tracking success. Grant funding from Anthem Foundation will provide a Fitbit Flex 2 wearable to each participant. The wearable technology provides an accessible way for National Fitness Challenge participants to set goals and monitor their progress. It also introduces a level of social interaction with other participants as the 13 agencies will be competing with their fellow participants on active minutes and number of steps each month. Top participants at each agency will be awarded prizes to further encourage healthy habits.
USABA will partner with 13 agencies across the nation to recruit participants and provide resources and sports and physical activity opportunities to reach their daily goals. To support participants in each city, partnering agencies will offer programming in activities like walking, tandem cycling, rowing, yoga and goalball, a Paralympic team sport for blind and visually impaired athletes. Some agencies will also be leading participants through a couch to 5k program for participation in a local 5k race during the challenge. During the 9-month program, USABA will also work with agencies to coordinate a USABA Paralympic Day in which members of the local communities will be invited to participate in sport programming specifically for people who are blind and visually impaired. Throughout the program, Anthem employees from local offices will have opportunities to engage with partnering agencies and participants by volunteering at various events and or planned programs.
As the year progresses, check usaba.org and social media (#NFChallenge2017) for agency highlights and individual success stories!
USABA is partnering with the following agencies on the 2017 National Fitness Challenge:
• Atlanta – Georgia Blind Sports Association
• Austin – Texas School for the Blind
• Cincinnati – Cincinnati Association of the Blind and Visually Impaired
• Cleveland –Cleveland Sight Center
• Denver – WE Fit Wellness
• Fort Wayne – Turnstone Center
• Indianapolis – USABA Indianapolis
• Knoxville – Club Vibes
• Los Angeles – Junior Blind of America
• Memphis – Tennessee Association of Blind Athletes-Memphis
• Sacramento – Sacramento Society for the Blind
• San Francisco – Lighthouse for the Blind
• St. Louis – National Federation for the Blind-Missouri
Feb 13, 2017
U.S. Goalball Teams Refreshed and Focused on Tokyo
By: Courtney Patterson, USABA Staff
Players on the U.S. Men’s and Women’s Goalball Teams took some well-earned time off after winning silver and bronze, respectively, at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games. But in January, teams were back on the court with their next big goal in mind - Tokyo.
To say Rio was a success for both teams is an understatement. The U.S. was the only country to have both Men’s and Women’s teams on the podium in Rio and it was the first time in 28 years that the U.S. Men’s team made it to the Paralympic championship match. The U.S. Women defeated host country, Brazil in the bronze medal game for a well-earned 3rd place finish after falling to China in the quarter-finals at the London 2012 Paralympic Games and finishing 7th.
U.S. Women’s National Team
Following their redeeming finish in Rio, the U.S. Women’s team is entering a new era after long-time head coach, Ken Armbruster, retired in October. In his 20 years of serving as the U.S. Women’s National Team Head Coach, Armbruster accumulated more wins than any other coach in U.S. Association Blind Athletes history. Filling those large shoes is Assistant Coach Jake Czechowski, who was promoted to Head Coach in the weeks following Armbruster’s retirement.
“My immediate goal is to maintain the level of excellence and tradition that past and current members of USA Women’s Goalball have worked so hard to sustain for over 30 years,” said Czechowski shortly after taking on the new role. Though filling Armbruster’s shoes will be difficult, Czechowski is inheriting some Paralympic talent that will set him up for success.
Amanda Dennis (Peachtree City, Ga.), who was named “One to Watch” by the International Paralympic Committee, is among that Paralympic talent. Dennis is a two-time Paralympian and now a medalist following the team’s success in Rio. Though reflecting on her success has been key to growing as an athlete, she’s already focused on her next goal.
“Gold in Tokyo,” Amanda answered immediately when talking about her aspirations. “But this year, I want to get stronger and work on my offense, scoring more goals for the team.”
Six athletes, including Dennis, traveled to Fort Wayne, Indiana for the first U.S. Women’s National Goalball Team Training Camp in January. Among them, emerging athlete Ali Lawson (Jasper, Ga.).
“The January training camp was very productive,” said Lawson. “It was definitely a great way to kick off the season. It’s always awesome to work with some of the best female goalball players out there.”
Lawson shares Dennis’ excitement for what is to come over the next four years. “The road to Tokyo has already begun for me,” said Lawson. “My ultimate goal is to be there representing Team USA. I am looking forward to the future of USA Goalball.”
U.S. Men’s National Team
After reminding the world they are a top contender in the sport, the U.S. Men’s National Team is focused on improving individually and as a team as they shift their focus from South America to Asia.
“We revamped our playing style in 2012, and the four years leading up to Rio were spent trying to iron out what we needed to do to be a winning team,” said Assistant Coach Matthew Boyle. “We accomplished the goal of finding a winning style, now the four years leading into Tokyo will be spent perfecting it.”
“Winning a silver medal in Rio was a huge success for our team,” said Boyle, “especially after not qualifying for the London Games. Winning a silver medal puts you in a great position, it gives you the confidence in knowing you are one of the best teams in the world and at the same time, it keeps you hungry knowing there is still more to achieve.”
Part of what helped the U.S. Men’s National Team succeed in Rio was the newly established Goalball Center of Excellence at the Plassman Athletic Center at Turnstone in Fort Wayne, Indiana. In October 2015, six male goalball players and a resident coach relocated to Fort Wayne to live and train full-time in preparation for the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games. Their sacrifice paid off when they stepped onto the medal stand in Rio last September, nearly a year later.
“The Goalball Resident Program is the best thing that has ever happened for the U.S. Men’s Goalball Team,” said Daryl Walker, Rio 2016 Paralympian and current resident athlete at the Goalball Center of Excellence. “Without the Resident Program, I could not be the goalball player I want and need to be. The resident program has helped me and others discover the potential within us.”
U.S. Men held their first training camp of 2017 in Fort Wayne the first weekend in February. Like the women’s team, players included emerging talent and veterans from the Rio 2016 Paralympic team.
“Tyler Merren retired after Rio,” said John Potts, U.S. Goalball’s High Performance Director. “But both coaches and the remaining five men are ready to take the trip to Tokyo. The returning team will be challenged by several young and talented prospects along with a couple of returning Paralympians who are going to challenge everyone for the chance to make the 2020 Paralympic team.”
“Both teams are stronger and more motivated for success than ever,” said Potts. “If folks like what they saw in Rio, they’ll want to follow us as we work our way to Tokyo over the next four years!”
Feb 02, 2017
USABA Seeks Members of New Goalball Broadcast Team
Have you ever hoped that goalball would become a broadcast sport and that you could become goalball broadcast commentator? Your wait may soon be over! USABA is in the process of procuring equipment and software that will enable video and audio broadcast of our domestic goalball tournaments. But we need you! We’re looking for candidates to be part of our first broadcast team.
We’re in search of volunteers who understand the sport and have the ability to provide clear and descriptive commentary of goalball matches while representing USABA with professionalism and enthusiasm. No travel or special equipment will be involved, although commentators will need to have reliable access to a computer and a strong internet connection.
Our goal is to launch broadcasting at the Midwest Regional Tournament held in Warren, MI and then each regional tournament and adult national championships.
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