Zach Buhler is not only a Paralympic hopeful in the sport of goalball, but he is also a four-time Beep Baseball World Series champion. Find out more about this Paralympic hopeful from Indiana in this Q&A:
Q: You were introduced to goalball just prior to the last Paralympic Games in 2016. Five years later you are one of the top players in the U.S. with a shot to compete in Tokyo or future Games. How does it feel to have progressed in the sport so quickly?
A: It’s crazy it’s been that long honestly. Time has really flown by. Going from where I was starting out, not knowing even what goalball was, to now having a chance to compete for Team USA is a huge opportunity and I feel very blessed and honored to even be given that opportunity.
Q: Do you remember what it was like competing at your first goalball event? How does it differ now?
A: Absolutely! My first year in goalball, as a team we won one game all season. I didn’t know anyone other than my teammates and no one knew who I was. Now I know just about everyone at a tournament and most know me. When you play against these guys a lot you learn how each other plays. So over the years, it’s been really cool to look back and watch my progression and everyone else’s as we always find ways to try and beat the competition. As you’re more involved with the sport, the more creative and precise you need to be. It’s a sport that you can always make improvements and always be challenged.
Q: Do you have a favorite goalball memory so far?
A: I would have to say it would be the 2019 semi-final game at nationals. I wasn’t playing a good tournament, I hadn’t played in a while, and we were playing a tough Florida team. We were young and hadn’t been in this position before. The game was tight the whole way. I gave up goals that I shouldn’t have and the whole game, even down to the wire, I thought I was going to be the one to lose it. With the score tied and less than 10 seconds left, Florida had the ball and I just knew they were throwing my direction because, at the time, I was by far the weakest defender. Sure enough, straight to me and I actually blocked it. So we headed to overtime, they threw first we threw back and scored. I haven’t felt that much excitement from sports in a long long time.
Q: What are your goals for 2021?
A: This year is almost the same as last year’s before the pandemic: Work hard, play hard, always improve, never backtrack, and help the team any way I can. Whether that is on the team or off the team, get Team USA on the podium.
Q: How have you been able to train through the pandemic?
A: When it first started I did a lot of at-home training…going on a lot of runs, a lot of bodyweight stuff, just trying to make sure my body was ready for whenever we started back up. Then in mid-May, I hurt my knee which, through multiple doctors and tests, five months later had surgery for a meniscus tear. Leading up to the surgery it was a lot of downtime trying to figure out what was going on without hurting myself more. After I was cleared, I immediately found a gym and a trainer and started hitting it hard to prepare.
Q: Do you have any advice for the new athletes coming into the sport?
A: Learn as you go. Talk to people who have been in the game a long time. Try different things, find what really works for you. Throwing-wise defense-wise, this game takes time and practice to be good at it and sometimes things just don’t go your way. It’s a hard sport. It can give and it can take.
Q: Is there anything people don’t know about you that you’d like to share?
A: Most people don’t know a couple of things about me. For one, I am actually originally from Huntington, Indiana, which is only about 20 minutes from Turnstone and the resident houses. I am also a multi-sport athlete and have been pretty much all my life. Currently, along with goalball, I also play beep baseball where my team has won the past four World Series in a row.