Croysutt Warriors are a goalball team that train regularly at the Harris Invictus Academy in Croydon. They serve the Croydon and Sutton (hence the name) area in south London, but welcome players from anywhere.
They were formed in 2014 by Robin Faulkner, who comes from a table tennis background as the Chairperson of South Croydon table tennis club. In 2014 Robin was approached by Street Games and invited to become a community sport partner in the Croydon area. Street Games harnesses the power of sport to create positive change in the lives of disadvantaged young people right across the UK.
As part of Robin’s role as a Street Games community sport partner he helped to modify sports to allow them to to be delivered without formal settings, but goalball fit the bill as a truly inclusive sport to bring to Croydon. You don’t have to be blind or vision impaired to play goalball because players must wear an opaque eyeshade at all times. Sighted players can play alongside blind and partially sighted teammates, and participate in tournaments (however, they can only compete at the amateur level). With the help and advice of Goalball UK’s Alex Bunney, Robin and Street Games brought goalball to south London with the formation of Croysutt Warriors!
Getting into Goalball
Earlier this month, I joined Robin and the rest of the Croysutt Warriors on rainy Monday night in Croydon. When Croysutt Warriors first started up in 2014 they struggled with attendance levels at the sessions, but it’s a different story these days, with enough regularly attending players to split up into novice, intermediate and elite groups. Coach Tommy Britton was leading the session that evening. Tommy began playing goalball in 2015 after losing his sight as an adult to Retinitis Pigmentosa. Playing goalball with Croysutt Warriors helped him to find a community, lose weight and gain fitness. It’s also become a family affair for the Brittons, with Tommy’s children and wife also playing with the team.
As Tommy says himself: “At the beginning, one of the most amazing things that I found about the sport was that it was helping me to relearn old skills which I lost with my sight. It’s stuff that we can take for granted, like being confident enough to take public transport alone. But the belief I got from playing goalball gave me the determination to become more independent”.
Warm ups and techniques
The session began with a group warm up, concentrating on some of the main muscle groups used for goalball. We stretched our arms, we jogged (and then sprinted) on the spot. Tommy then led us through some very dynamic goalball-specific warm up exercises.
He instructed asked us to touch our left elbow to the floor, right elbow to the floor, left shoulder, right shoulder, and so on, and at speed! This was a bit bewildering at first, but these warms ups do correspond with some of the moves players have to make during the game. We then got into goalball stance – a sideways crouched position, to the left or the right depending on players’ preference – and practised defensive moves.
Then it was time for the first game! Croysutt Warriors have strength in numbers and lots of talented players coming through – one of the reasons Tommy moved into coaching was so he could help nurture this local talent. The first game of the evening featured novices lining up against each other. This was a good opportunity for me to get more of a feel for the rules, and to start mentally preparing myself for having a goalball thrown at me….
It was then my turn in front of goal. I was presenting with some opaque eyeshades and a chest guard and lined up with some of the intermediate players. I played on the right wing and very quickly came to appreciate the tactile markings on the floor – they really help you to orientate yourself in front of the goal!
Luckily I had a GB goalballer on my team (Matthew Loftus) and he did a lot of the hard work protecting the goal and saving most of the shots that came my way. When a goalball is thrown at you, you create a defensive barrier by outstretching your arms and legs to block to the ball. However, you do need to ‘stack’ your legs and arms in a way that doesn’t allow the ball to slip through and into the goal. I found this quite a tricky skill to master, and it’s a frustrating way to concede a goal (which I did a few times).
Want to know more?
Croysutt Warriors are always looking for more goalballing talent – they welcome players of all ages and sight levels, and they are a really friendly team! If you would like to attend a session, get in touch with the team on firstname.lastname@example.org
Want to learn even more about what a Croysutt Warriors goalball session is like? Watch this video!