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Developing Lacrosse for Blind Players


He’s not sure when, and really not sure how, at least yet, but Marty Delaney is planning on developing a version of lacrosse for blind players. 

As founder of the Parkville (Md.) Adaptive Lacrosse program, Delaney has been serving developmentally challenged players since 2001. He’s now focused on adding another target group to the lacrosse community.

Delaney and his team of local partners, including Goucher College women’s coach Cat Thoreson and Towson High School boys’ coach Shawn Burke, are working with the Maryland School for the Blind (MSB) in this new initiative. They started earlier this month with a small scale players’ clinic involving about a dozen participants, ages 13-17.

“At this point, we’re basically just introducing the game to the players and observing,” Delaney says. “This is a learning experience for everybody.”

Delaney’s team is using the input from its initial clinic to modify the game for the blind players. Elements that include how the players move around the field and how they communicate with each other will be factored into the adaptations. Developing a viable long-term option that replicates the actual lacrosse experience as closely as possible is the ultimate goal. 

“We are discussing what would be the best fit,” Delaney says “but this is going to work.”

He stresses that finding the right ball to use is one of the top priorities. Two options are currently being considered further. One is the use of the softer SwaxLax ball, modified with the insertion of a sounding device. The other is the use of the same hard plastic ball used in blind cricket that includes beads and bearings. That ball is also used in blind floor hockey.

Beyond just the ball, Delaney is open to utilizing innovations that have proven to be helpful in other blind sports activities.

“We need to analyze and see what adaptations will work best in the development of an independent game,” says Matt Mescall, a physical education teacher and athletic coach at MSB. “The goal is always to keep it as simple as possible. The fewer modifications we make, the better able others are to duplicate what we’ve done.”

Maryland School for the Blind is an eager participant in this new endeavor, and has a track record for innovative activities for its students. Last summer, MSB hosted North America’s first soccer camp for blind players. In December, MSB students and alumni set the Guinness World Record for the longest continuous game of Goalball, a Paralympic sport, by playing for 25 hours. 

“The blind sports realm is constantly growing,” Mescall says. “Since we’re in Maryland and people talk about lacrosse, we’re excited about working with Marty to broaden the experience for our students. He is looking to the future.”

“The power of adaptive lacrosse is inclusion,” Delaney says. “Playing the game makes participants feel part of something bigger.”