by Sierra Romero
Twelve athletes gathered in Chula Vista, Calif., Dec. 6-9, to participate in a 5-a-side soccer talent identification camp hosted by the United States Association of Blind Athletes.
Athletes and coaches, ages 17-36, spent two full days training at the Elite Athlete Training Center, a recognized Olympic and Paralympic Training Site.
5-a-side soccer, also known as blind football, has been played in the Paralympic Games since 2004, but the U.S. has never fielded a team. With Los Angeles set to host the Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2028, the U.S. will have an automatic entry into the 5-a-side soccer competition at those Games, so USABA is fast-tracking the talent identification process with camps such as this one. While the Paralympic level of 5-a-side soccer requires males and females to have a visual level/acuity of B1, USABA wants all athletes to still try out this exciting sport at recreational and local levels.
The purpose of USABA’s development camp was to help identify athletes who possess the skills to play on a competitive 5-a-side soccer national team leading up to the 2028 Paralympic Games. Coaches Tim Taylor with Maryland School for the Blind, Katie Atkinson with Ohio Blind Soccer, and Giorgi Papov helped give essential skill tips and strategies for the sport.
“Overall the camp was a great success,” said Taylor. “We had elite players from all over the U.S. come out and show great skill. The players and coaches exceeded my expectations. I am very excited and confident in the direction we are going toward forming a national team. Thank you to USABA, the coaches, players, and Chula Vista Training Center for helping us build the sport of blind soccer in the U.S.”
5-a-side soccer is a co-ed sport that is played with five players including the sighted goalie, a ball that makes a noise so athletes can locate the ball, and a guide on the sidelines to help assist each team in directing players. This version of the sport requires less passing than standard soccer and focuses more on dribbling technique. Unlike other blind sports, 5-a-side soccer is the only sport where athletes are running without a guide runner, so each player must rely on their sense of hearing and communication with other team members. 5-a-side soccer is significantly different than regular soccer meaning that different techniques must be learned and mastered in order to play.
The camp’s coaches and staff spent time teaching and working with the athletes on dribbling, passing and shooting. Coaches also taught offensive and defensive tactics, and how to better communicate with their teammates, guides and opponents.
“I am so thankful to have had the opportunity to be selected as one of the coaches for the National ID Clinic,” added Atkinson. “We found some promising athletes who are passionate about the sport. With more clinics and opportunities to learn more about blind soccer, I feel confident we will have a talented team for 2028. We are going to keep pushing toward our goal.”
USABA plans to continue hosting and promoting more 5-a-side soccer development camps in the future. For more information on upcoming events, visit https://www.usaba.org/events/