Beckett looking to promote goalball

Four years ago, former Muskie football standout Shane Beckett had no idea the blind sport of goalball even existed.
Today, he’s head coach for the Canadian national team seeking a berth in the 2004 Para-Olympic Games in Athens, Greece–and looking to heighten awareness of the sport in this country in the process.
It’s certainly been a long road for Beckett, and he’ll be the first to tell you that.
“I never envisioned this,” said the 28-year-old teacher at Mikinaak Onigamiing school in the Sabaskong First Nation just days before his team captured the gold medal at the Pan-Am Games on May 31 in South Carolina.
Canada edged the United States 5-4 in overtime, guaranteeing them one of 16 spots for next summer’s world championships. It was Beckett’s first international competition since being named head coach three months ago.
Goalball is a sport for the blind consisting of an open 9’x18’ gym court with nets equalling its entire width. The game involves a three-pound ball with bells being thrown between two teams of three players in attempts to score on net.
Everyone is required to wear ski goggles, making everyone at the same level in terms of distorted sight.
The sport has been around for 20 years, and is governed under the arm of the International Blind Sports Association. Canada has 12 players in the national pool, with six of them considered as internationally-carded athletes.
The team finished 10th at the 2000 Para-Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia.
Beckett starred as the Muskies’ running back until 1991 and was set to play American college Division II football at the University of North Dakota until a knee injury ended those plans.
Instead, he came back north and played for the University of Windsor and then the University of Manitoba.
As the injuries and school courseload grew heavier, Beckett began to see the end of his football career–one he had hoped would include playing in the Canadian Football League.
“By my third year with the Bisons, I knew there wouldn’t be anything at the next level,” he admitted. From there, the door was open for goalball.
It all started when his U of M’s Bachelor of Physical Education program required its students to take part in “adapted physical education,” which required 15 hours of volunteer time toward a special needs sport.
The well-known sports such as wheelchair basketball were available but Beckett chose another route.
“Goalball just looked interesting,” he recalled. “But it was really a random choice. I thought, ‘I’ll do 15 hours of this and I’ll never do it again.’”