【Football 5-a-side】Learning how to communicate through Blind Soccer! A hands-on lesson [Off Time]
Scientific theories state that humans extract 80% of information from the environment through vision. However, in football 5-a-side, more commonly known in Japan as blind soccer, players wear eye shades, preventing them from using their sense of vision. Because of this, it is ever more critical in blind soccer for team mates to communicate vocally, trust each other, and work as a team to achieve their target.
“OFF TIME” is a hands-on program that takes advantage of such characteristics of blind soccer. Participants of this program are required to wear eye shades, and work together with team mates whom they have just met to overcome a challenge. The aim is to enable people to have a learning experience by putting thems in an extraordinary situation. Amongst the instructors are national blind soccer team members.
Participants learn about the basics of the sport including technical terms and when to call out to team mates. In other words, OFF TIME is not only a lesson on blind soccer, but also a valuable opportunity to learn about communicating and building relationships of trust.
Participants become aware of their communication habits
Participants, with their visions turned off, communicate verbally
OFF-TIME is composed of three parts. The program begins with a physical and mental warm-up. Participants do stretches in pairs, but the catch is that one person must wear eye shades. Therefore, the people wearing eye shades must rely on their partner to explain to them vocally what kind of stretch the instructor is demonstrating.
While “bend your knees” is a fairly easy stretch to explain, arm stretches can be a little more complicated. Many participants struggled to give an accurate, verbal explanation to their partner about the various stretches. The pairs switched roles half way through so that everyone had a chance to experience guiding and following instructions.
After the warm-up session came the self-introduction. Participants gave a brief introduction of themselves and shared their thoughts regarding the warm-up session. “I felt uneasy not being able to see,” “Communicating verbally was harder than I thought,” were some of the popular opinions. The self-introduction session allowed participants to go over the learning lessons of the OFF TIME program.
Things got physical in the second part of the program. All of the participants wore eye shades, and brushed up their communication skills as they took on various challenges together. For example, one assignment was to divide themselves into groups according to their blood type. While some participants shouted out their own blood type to lead people their way, others preferred to follow the voices and guide themselves to the people calling out the same blood type as their own. After repeating such exercises, participants started to see a pattern in their own communication habits. This is one of the aspects of OFF TIME that participants greatly enjoy. Knowing your own communication pattern allows you to have a better understanding of your strengths and weaknesses, and the challenges that you need to overcome.
In the third part of the program, participants were divided into two teams, and had an actual blind soccer match to learn to pass and shoot the ball. Teams were given time to have a meeting before the match, and participants discussed intently and came up with creative, strategic ways to win the game.
Although it may seem like little time is dedicated to maneuvering the ball in the OFF TIME program, the communication skills and sense of trust that participants gain in parts 1 and 2 are essential in order to learn the foundations of blind soccer. Participants would have likely been afraid and immobile on the field if the program had immediately started with a hands-on soccer match, but because the participants were given a chance to practice following their team mates' verbal instructions and build a sense of trust, they gained the courage which enabled them to chase the ball on the field in the end.
Training program that participants can enjoy like a game
After learning about the basics of communication, participants attempt to kick a ball
A new experience every time
Hajime Teranishi, who has been an OFF SITE program instructor since its establishment in February 2014, explained the aim of the program. “This program is built upon blind soccer, an aggressive contact sport. Therefore, our aim is to get participants to wear eye shades and be in “motion”. We are hoping that it will help them to gain a deeper understanding of the importance of communication,” said Teranishi. “Also, participants are always different, so depending on the session, the atmosphere can be completely different. That's another interesting aspect of OFF TIME. Even if you participate multiple times, you can still gain a new experience every time,” added Teranishi.
Rurika Tokunaga, a first-timer of the program, decided to participate in OFF TIME in hopes of gaining a better understanding of the people with disabilities that she interacts with at work. “The world felt completely different with my vision turned off. Until I experienced it for myself, I didn't realize just how difficult it is to be blind. I also learned that when I am deprived of my sense of vision, the kindness of people around me makes a great difference. I hope to make use of the lessons I learned in my day to day life,” said Tokunaga.
On the other hand, for Keiko Saito, this was the second time taking part in OFF SITE. “I had a harder time communicating this time,” said Saito. “Maybe a person's physical condition affects his or her ability to understand oral instructions.” Saito also shared her experience helping a blind person who was having trouble getting on an escalator. After learning how to assist people with visual impairment in the previous OFF SITE lesson, she was able to offer help, take the person's arm, and assist the person onto the escalator with ease. “I was glad that I had learned from Mr. Teranishi last time about how to communicate with blind people, which allowed me to help the blind person the other day. It's really true that practice makes perfect,” said Saito.
OFF TIME is an educational, recreational program that offers a valuable experience for first-timers as well as repeaters of the program. Lessons are held every Thursday at the Shinjuku NPO Collaboration Promotion Center (Takadanobaba, Shinjuku, Tokyo) for adults over 18. Anyone interested is encouraged to attend. Why not come out to make new friends, and rediscover yourself at the same time!
photo by X-1