A North Lauderdale teen is among five athletes who will represent the U.S. next month at the 2023 IBSA Goalball Youth World Championships in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Kenneth Jacques, 17, a junior at the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind in St. Augustine – and member of the school’s 2022 U.S. National High School Goalball championship team – will take the court with other high-school standouts: Tristan Brennan, 18, of Jacksonville; Hussan Itani, 17, also of Jacksonville; Darrius Matthews, 17, of Houston, Texas; and Jacob Peterson, 18, of Washington, Utah.
The two alternates for the U.S. team are Khayree Lofton of Jacksonville and Christopher Morgan of Douglasville, Ga.
In goalball, two teams of three players each face each other across a court that is nine meters wide and 18 meters long. The object of the game is to roll a basketball-sized ball with bells inside of it over the opposing team’s goal line.
The opposing team listens for the oncoming ball and attempts to block it with their bodies. Once they are able to stop the ball and take control of it, they become the offensive team.
Goalball is the most popular team sport for the blind and visually impaired, according to the U.S. Association of Blind Athletes.
The sport originated in 1946 when Austrian Hanz Lorrenzen and German Sett Reindle developed the game as a way to keep blinded World War II veterans physically active. It is played competitively in 112 countries, according to the association.
The U.S. has competed at seven previous IBSA Goalball Youth World Championship events, winning 13 medals – including five golds – among both boys’ and girls’ teams.
Team USA last competed in the championship tournament in 2017 when the boys team won the gold medal.
Jacques will be playing with two of his FSDB teammates, Brennan and Itani, who were also members of the high school’s 2022 championship team. For both Brennan and Itani, it marked back-to-back titles.
Jacques said he was introduced to goalball while a student at FSDB.
“Though I started late in goalball, my coach and teammates have helped me in becoming a better player every time I get on the court,” he said.
Jacques said he enjoys watching the USA Men’s National Goalball Team compete internationally “because I want them to be the best in the world.”
He hopes to eventually represent the U.S. at the Melbourne Paralympic Games.
“After I graduate high school, I plan to attend either the University of Central Florida or the University of North Florida and major in business management,” Jacques said.
A fundraising campaign has been set up to help pay for the team’s travel and participation in the championship tournament in Brazil.
“Contributing to this campaign will help provide an invaluable experience for these young men, both on and off the court, and create memories for them that will last a lifetime,” organizers wrote.