Morristown Central School student training for Paralympics
Photo submitted by BOCES.
MORRISTOWN — A Morristown Central School student is training for the Paralympics.Noel Dousharm is a shy, but friendly sixth grader at Morristown Central School, who, like many kids her age, is outgoing, loves to travel, plays video games on her Nintendo Switch, and enjoys making crafts, according to BOCES spokesperson Brittany Frank.
However, Dousharm also has a passion that sets her apart - Goalball, a sport for the visually impaired.
She was diagnosed with glaucoma at birth, and is legally blind in both eyes, with total blindness in her left eye. She navigates her school, home and community with the use of her cane and other aides that help her to see.
"Her visual impairment presents her with a unique set of challenges compared with her peers, but also allows her the opportunity to compete in goalball," Frank said.
Goalball is a co-ed sport exclusive to athletes with visual impairments. It is played in a gym court, and the objective is to throw a ball, which weighs 1.25 kilograms and has noise bells to help orient the players, using a bowling motion into the opposing teams net, while the opposing team players try to block the ball with their bodies.
"Goalball is an intriguing sport to observe as absolute silence is required to allow the participating athletes to concentrate," Frank said,
Noel was introduced to Goalball a few years ago while attending Campabilities in Brockport. She participated in the 25-Hour World Record Game, and was hooked. In July 2023, she began practicing on a competitive level with the New York Association of Blind Athletes (NYABA) Goalball team in New York City.
Dousharm's team consists of mainly adult players, ranging from casual participants to national and USA Paralympians. "Her team has embraced having her, helped her develop her skills, and have provided her with a sense of team belonging that she has never experienced playing a sport with her peers," Frank said.
Noel is one of the youngest players on the NYABA team, and hopes to one day compete in the Paralympics.
Noel’s mom, Sarah, says “Noel loves everything about being in New York City. She has never complained about the six hour drive to get there, she is just so excited to arrive and play with her team.”
When she is not practicing in NYC, Noel practices locally in the gym at Morristown Central School with her mom. When the MCS gym isn’t available, Hammond Central School provides Noel with the space to practice as well.
"Her dream is to become a paralympian, just like her idol and mentor, Mindy Cook, but she is already inspiring those around her by demonstrating resilience, perseverance, courage, and a deep love for learning," Frank said. Morristown Central School Superintendent, Staci Vaughn, is one of those individuals.
"In the pursuit of excellence, barriers become opportunities," Vaughn said. Noel’s dedication to competitive Goalball with the New York Association of Blind Athletes not only showcases remarkable athletic skill but also exemplifies the boundless potential within every student. In overcoming challenges, Noel embodies the resilience and determination we strive to instill in every learner,” Vaughn said.
Morristown Central School Athletic Director, Tiffany Irish, said, “Success is not defined by what you see, but by the strength, determination, and passion that lights up your path. In the world of goalball, Noel is a shining example of excellence, proving that the power of the human Spirit can achieve anything.”
Blindness Awareness Month is recognized and observed throughout the month of October, and serves as an opportunity to enhance public awareness about blindness, visual impairment and challenges faced by individuals who are blind or visually impaired. Noel is a part of the US Association of Blind Athletes, who will host a month-long celebration of blind sports, including Goalball. USABA National Blind Sports Month will include webinars with USABA athletes, workouts from USABA Sport Ambassadors and social media takeovers from community members nationwide! The goal of National Blind Sports Month is to provide Americans who are blind and visually impaired with opportunities to participate in a variety of sports and physical activities and to raise awareness of blind sports.To learn more, please visit https://www.usaba.org/2023-national-blind-sports-month/
Noel practices Goalball frequently with her mom, Sarah. Parents of students with visual impairments that are interested in practicing with, or reaching out to Noel and Sarah can contact them by emailing [email protected]