Future Reflections       Fall 2014       SPORTS AND RECREATION

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Beep Kickball
A New Sport

by Judy Byrd

From the Editor: Judy Byrd is the director of the Beep Kickball Association in Atlanta, Georgia. At the 2014 convention of the National Federation of the Blind, she spoke to parents about beep kickball and introduced the game to the kids in childcare. You can watch a video of beep kickball at <www.cnn.com/video/data/2.0/video/living/2014/05/27/pkg-firfer-beep-kickball.cnn.html>.

A boy stands poised to throw and kick a ball.Do you remember playing kickball at recess? Kickball teams are all the rage these days--unless you're visually impaired. But now there's a new game in town--beep kickball. Beep kickball is an adapted sport for those who are visually impaired or blind.

Beep kickball is played on a baseball diamond just like beep baseball, using a ten-inch soft foam kickball that beeps. Players wear sleepshades to equalize their differences in vision. There is no pitcher. There is no running around the bases, and nobody throws the ball. There is no second base, just first and third bases. The kicker kicks the ball and runs to tag the base (either first or third), which is buzzing to reveal its location.

The goal of the game is to tag the base before one of the six fielders picks up the ball. If the kicker tags the base first, it's a run. If a fielder picks up the ball first, the kicker is out. There are three outs per inning. Six innings, game over!

In the Beep Kickball Association, we like to introduce kickball to children as young as five years old. We hope that sports will become part of their lives as they grow up. The earlier a young child becomes active, the healthier he or she will be.

I invented beep kickball in 2011 while I served as a volunteer with the Center for the Visually Impaired in Atlanta. When I helped start the Atlanta Beep Baseball Team, I noticed that all of the players were older teens and adults. I wondered what games the younger kids played. Then an idea came to me: same sport, different ball--beep kickball!

The boy follows through after kicking the ball.By 2014, over fifty schools and summer programs across the nation had adopted beep kickball. Some children play it in physical education classes, some in parks and recreation programs, and some at camps for the blind. Beep kickball is also being taught at universities to undergraduate and graduate students studying adapted PE, kinesiology, and therapeutic recreation. It is my hope that some day beep kickball will join goalball and beep baseball as a third mainstream blind sport.

Atlanta and Dallas are the first cities to start beep kickball teams. It is our hope that other cities will follow. Beep Kickball Play Days have become popular in Atlanta, giving children an opportunity to come out and play.

Like their sighted peers, children who are blind and visually impaired learn self-confidence, determination, persistence, fairness, and patience through team sports. These traits are all valuable as a child grows toward adulthood, but they are hard to understand and develop without practice. Participation in sports is a wonderful way to practice these skills while having a great time with family and friends.

Games such as beep kickball have additional benefits for children who are blind. Kickball helps players increase their mobility and agility, traits especially important to young children. A background in sports may help teens and young adults face the challenges of applying for a job and living independently. Newly blind adults benefit from being active again. They enjoy the opportunity to do things they thought they would never be able to do again--be active outdoors, meet challenges, and have fun with other people.

A picnic or retreat is the perfect setting for playing beep kickball. Sighted players can join in the fun simply by putting on sleepshades.

The equipment for beep kickball is quite affordable. The beeping ball costs $130, and a set of buzzing bases is priced at $100. Ball and bases should last for years because they have replaceable parts. To place an order, go to <www.BeepKickball.com>.

For more information, contact me at (770) 317-2035 or Judybyrd@gmail.com. The Beep Kickball Association is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation, and all proceeds go toward promoting the sport.

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