I have made countless new friendships since entering the VI sporting world and this I am forever grateful for. Being around so many amazing VI and blind individuals has also helped me become so much more confident in myself and with my disability.

Grant Mallabar

My name is Grant Mallabar and I live in Hartlepool in the northeast of England. The two VI sports I play are goalball and blind baseball. As well as these I do a lot of running and will be doing my third Great North Run later this year!

How it began

I got involved in the visually impaired sporting world in 2021 when I relocated to Manchester for a year for work. I played a lot of sports when I was in school, my most loved being football! However, it had been a few years since I had been able to play competitive sport due to the nature of my eye condition and my eyes gradually becoming a lot worse. Sports went from something I adored playing to something which caused nothing but frustration.

Image of grant skidding on the baseball pitch to catch a ball, wearing a blue, red and white baseball kit and blue cap.

When moving to Manchester, as I didn’t know anyone, I wanted to socialise and meet new people. I tried finding a VI football club, but there wasn’t one in the area. I kept seeing goalball and baseball come up, so I thought why not give it a go, what’s the worst that can happen, and the rest is history!

Discovering New Sports.

I now play Goalball for the Northern all-stars based in Newcastle and I am also a member of the committee. I have a new position this season playing as a centre, and as crazy as it may sound, I truly don’t think I have ever enjoyed playing sport this much ever in my life, including when my eyes were in a decent enough condition and playing football!

I play blind baseball for the Manchester VIBE and the GB team. This has given me some amazing opportunities, travelling to the Netherlands and Italy to play a sport that I love and being awarded the MVP defensive player of the tournament at the last international competition in Bologna, in October 2023.

I have now also created a new blind baseball team in Hartlepool, the first team in the northeast! The sessions have been going amazingly and we hope to have the team entered into competitions in the 2025 season!

How sport has changed my life.

There are many things I enjoy about sports, the main one being I am ridiculously competitive! You also become part of a team, I have made countless new friendships since entering the VI sporting world and this I am forever grateful for.

Being around so many amazing VI and blind individuals has helped me become so much more confident in myself and with my disability, so much so I am now a white cane user. I have needed this for a long time as I am registered SSI. Seeing my friends use their canes without a care in the world was the final push I needed in making the decision to get one.

Sport helps my mental health massively. Whenever I’m having a bad day, going out for a jog, doing a boxing workout in my house or doing a circuit/weights training always makes me feel so much better. Of course, this won’t be the same for everyone, but I believe exercise is very much underrated and for anyone feeling low I highly recommend trying to find something you love and getting the endorphins going!

Let’s get involved!

One piece of advice I would have for individuals in a similar boat to the old me is to take the leap and give it a go. The worst that can happen is that you don’t like it and you may have wasted a couple of hours of your life! The best thing that can happen is you will fall in love with a new hobby and create many amazing friends and memories along the way.

I have tried other VI sports which weren’t to my taste, but this is fine! Everyone enjoys different things. Do I regret going to the sessions I didn’t enjoy? Absolutely not! If I hadn’t given it a try I would still be sat here wondering what if!

Overcoming challenges.

The only challenge I have faced along the way in my journey is the lack of clubs around and the travelling involved to get to clubs.

This has never really fazed me too much, as I am a confident traveller so have been happy to do so. Some distances have not been possible however due to the timings of sessions and not being able to get there and back in time via public transport! The majority of people in the VI community are extremely friendly, and If you are worried about the travel, I am sure someone from the club would be happy to talk the journey though with you or even meet you at local bus/train stations, just like we do at my goalball and baseball club!

Image of Grant on a goalball pitch with a blue ball in is hand, two other players are kneeling on the floor next to him

A huge thank you to Grant for sharing his inspirational journey of finding sports he loves and the positive impact this has had on his life.

Resources

If you are interested in getting involved in sports but unsure where to start below is a great list of resources to help you find a local club or sports programme in your area.

  • See My Voice – A sports leadership programme for VI Children aged 14-19 years
  • Activity Finder Database – a database that shows local VI sport opportunities whether aimed exclusively at visually impaired people or a mainstream club that has had training to include visually impaired people.
  • First Steps Programme activity packs and games to play featuring Jangles the Jingle ball suitable for younger children between 3 and 11 can be sent out though the programme has officially come to an end. 
  • British Blind Sport educational resources and toolkits – Link to coaching people with a visual impairment course
  • British Blind Sport educational resources and toolkits – Link to Educational toolkits for various sports
  • Goalball UK – A list of all the active goalball clubs in the country https://goalballuk.com/the-sport/clubs/
  • Thomas Pocklington Trust Make Sport Accessible campaign – TPT and UK Coaching have teamed up to create a campaign to make gyms and leisure centres more accessible for blind and partially sighted people.
  • Active Alliance Inclusive Fitness Initiative – The Active Alliance is a pan-disability organisation that aims to break down barriers faced by disabled people when wanting to take part in sports and physical activity. Their inclusive fitness initiative is an initiative designed to try and make gyms and leisure centres more accessible by giving places accreditation for their accessibility.
  • Active Partnerships (England-wide network)
  • Every county in England has an Active Partnerships network. A county’s Active Partnerships network manages sports at all levels across that county. It has a relationship with professional clubs, through to small community sports clubs.
  • School Games (UK-wide)– https://www.yourschoolgames.com/
  • Disability Sport Wales Disability Sport Wales has an Insport Project which aims to support the physical activity, sport, and leisure sectors delivering inclusively for disabled people.
  • Disability Snowsport UK https://www.disabilitysnowsport.org.uk/
  • Lawn Tennis Associationhttps://www.lta.org.uk/play/inclusion-disability/visually-impaired-tennis/
  • Sense Active – The charity Sense has been funded by Sports England to deliver meaningful sports and physical activity opportunities for people with sensory or complex disabilities. More details here:
  • Sense Active activity finder