Goalball Competition & Rules

  • The ball must touch the ground on or before a team’s “highball line” which is 6 meters from their goal line (one on either end)
  • The thrower will throw the ball underhand much like a bowling throw
  • Elite players will often incorporate spin that resembles a discus or shot put throw
  • Defending players use the sound of the approaching ball to position themselves and block the ball
  • All three athletes on a team act as defenders
  • There are two wings and a center that communicate and position themselves both before and after the ball is thrown
  • Proper defensive goalball form involves laying fully extended on one’s side parallel to the goal, presenting maximum surface area to keep the ball from rolling or bouncing into the net
  • Defenders should attempt to keep the top hip at a slight forward angle with their top foot and top hand positioned slightly forward
  • When a team blocks the ball, they have ten seconds to return the ball down the court towards the other team
  • Regulation games are comprised of two twelve minute halves, although games can be shortened where necessary
  • An infraction occurs when there is a violation that results in the offending team losing possession of the ball. These can include pass out and out of bounds
Competition Models

Competitions are typically divided by gender and age group, although youth teams are permitted to compete in open competitions as well. However, for a recreational program, mixing gender and ability levels is manageable and can help to expand competitions. Including other disability groups and able-bodied athletes can be approached in the same manner. Teams should be constructed to be somewhat equal.

The rules for goalball games can be modified where necessary to allow greater inclusion for inexperienced players or athletes with various needs. One coach or referee can keep a basic game of goalball flowing by calling goals and outs. As players advance, penalties like high balls, eye shades, and ten second violations should be incorporated. An officially sanctioned game of goalball will include two referees, four goal judges and four table officials, but this is not required for a game to be played at even an advanced intermediate level. As players learn to play the game, coaches will learn the rules of play and how to direct the flow of the game. USABA offers referee certification and the full rulebook is available at IBSA’s website.

Goalball competitions occur at a national, regional and local level. USABA hosts both a High School National Championship and an Open National Championship each year. Regional tournaments also take place all over the United States. Most states have a School for the Blind that will have a goalball team. These schools often participate in Blind School-specific athletic conferences. New programs can seek to integrate into these existing tournaments.


Guideline Table of Contents
Training and Equipment



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