FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas - Silence. Players goggles down, listen ...

In the first Warrior Transition Battalion Goalball Tournament held Nov. 5, 17 teams competed in a game that required more than skill, but a keen sense of hearing.

Played at the Center Post Gym, wounded warriors and WTB staff members relied on their hearing and touch, rather than their sight to score goals.

"I was so focused on the sound of the ball. Hearing overruled and became my eyes," said Carlos Garcia, winger for the Stepchildren team.

Competing on three-man teams with a center and two wingers, players try to roll a ball embedded with bells into the opponent's goal. By using the sound of the bell, players judge the position and movement of the ball.

Games consisted of two five-minute halves, with all players wearing goggles to allow partially-sighted players to compete on an equal footing with blind players.

In the finals, Da Wolfpack Playas hoped for an easy win against the Stepchildren, since it took five ties and an overtime to beat Self-Abuse, 7-6, before advancing to the championship game.

"We played every game as a new one," said John Meyer, center for the Stepchildren. "We did get better each game as we learned how to overcome our limitations."

Even though, Da Wolfpack Playas had a game plan to stop the Stepchildren's James Bradley from handling the ball and to return the ball as soon as it was thrown to keep the Stepchildren from setting up, it wasn't enough for the win.

The Stepchildren won 9-6 for the gold medal. Da Wolfpack Playas placed second, winning silver; Self-Abuse took third for the bronze.

Goalball, a team sport designed for blind athletes, was played to encourage unit cohesion between wounded warriors and WTB supporting staff, said Lt. Col. John Myers, WTB commander.

Myers said they have established a quarterly warrior and staff athletic competition in the WTB, which started in April. The tournament was part of the quarterly program designed by the WTB to promote esprit de corps.

Part of the cohesion began with this tournament in a united effort between the WTB and Jen Armbruster, gold medalist and team captain of the Women's Paralympics Goalball; John Register and John Potts of the U.S. Paralympics; Mandy Goff of the Lakeshore Foundation; and Heather Gardner, recreation therapist of the Center for the Intrepid.

Armbruster, Register, Potts, Goff and Gardner taught the more than 100 participants the sport of goalball, provided training clinics, help officiate the games, and set up the tourney.

"Recently, we began partnering with the U.S. Paralympics Committee to participate with us in our sporting programs. We've selected sporting events that Warriors, staff and Families can participate in together," said Myers.

"It's given me a whole different outlook on being blind," said Da Wolfpack Playas co-captain Willie China. "Most days my senses are geared toward seeing and taste, not hearing and touch. It's like soccer for the blind."

Echoing China's remarks, Meyer said "You never know what you have until you lose it (sight) and this was an experience that helped me see what I have. I respect that those with impaired vision do not let it rule their life. It is a limitation, but not a defining piece of their life."

Our sight is extremely precious, added Myers, reflecting on a comment made by one of the Warriors.

"My injuries are very minor," said Spc. Josh Wells, a double amputee, and goalball participant. "Compared with those Soldiers, who have eyesight injuries or who have lost their vision."

Myers said, Wells' comments "clearly indicate that we are having success in meeting our focus objectives to help these men and women see beyond their injuries. Warriors are realizing what they can do and will be able to do in the future."

Fort Sam Houston Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation, WTB Family Readiness Group and the Warrior Family Support Center sponsored the event.

Note: Jen Rodriguez works at Brooke Army Medical Center Public Affairs Office, and Capt. Matthew Humphrey is the Warrior Transition Battalion, S-3.