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The Coppell Lions recently were involved in the 2013 Sports Extravaganza held at Nimitz High School in Irving October 18-19. The event is held annually for visually impaired athletes from Texas and other states. It allows competition in Paralympic-like games, track and field and other sports. Some 300 athletes came and participated in the events sponsored by the Lions Clubs in Districts 2-X1 and 2-E2, along with the Region 10 Education Service Center. 

The Coppell Lions Club was well represented and sponsored a Goalball team on Friday night that ended up winning a gold medal in their division. The sport, which is popular among the sight-impaired is played in an area about the size of a regulation volleyball court. Teams of three score points by rolling a special ball into the opponent's net that lie at either end of a playing area about the size of a regulation volleyball court. The ball used has eight small holes and contains bells for the players to locate.  On either side of a center line, there is a neutral area. Just in front of each goal is a landing area. Once the referee calls "play," the offense has 10 seconds to throw the ball toward the opposite goal. If the ball isn't thrown in that time it is a penalty. If the ball doesn't contact the neutral and landing areas, a penalty is also incurred. The defense tracks the ball by sound an attempts to block the ball from entering the goal. All players must wear eyeshades that block vision.

The sport came into existence in the mid 1940s to help rehabilitate soldiers that had lost part or all of their sight in World War II. Its popularity grew as an excellent outlet for physical exercise and social interaction. Goalball became a sport in the Paralympics in 1980, and has grown to hundreds of thousands of athletes in over 100 countries. Lions Clubs worldwide embrace the sport as part of their dedication to service to the visually impaired.

The Coppell Lions sponsored team, nicknamed the Firecrackers, were a group of under 12 boys and girls from Plano. They won a gold medal in the beginner division. One inspiring member was both deaf and visually handicapped so he had to play with a coach giving him signals by touch and his own sense of orientation as to where he was and which way he was facing.

"We had a lot of fun and the players really got into it. You can't say enough about their spirit and their attitude. It really makes it all worthwhile," Lion Bill Smothermon said.

Other Lions Club members helped with outside activities that included track and field events such as beep-baseball. tennis ball Throw, T-Ball Strike, archery, shot put, discus, standing long jump, running long jump, geocaching and golf hitting for distance.  

"When it comes right down to it, it's heartwarming to see these athletes able to enjoy themselves in a competitive setting and for the kids, it's fun to see their great sense of accomplishment," said Melinda Helsley, Coppell Lions Second Vice President.

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