Blindfolded Showdown: A fast-paced cross between table tennis and air hockey that's a smash hit with sight loss charity

Sheffield Royal Society for the Blind introduces Showdown, a fast-paced game of blindfolded table tennis and air hockey for visually impaired and sighted players.
Advertiser reporter Gareth Dennison has a go at playing Showdown with service user Lindsey Green, under the watchful eye of activities and fundraising support offer Ben Gilder.Advertiser reporter Gareth Dennison has a go at playing Showdown with service user Lindsey Green, under the watchful eye of activities and fundraising support offer Ben Gilder.
Advertiser reporter Gareth Dennison has a go at playing Showdown with service user Lindsey Green, under the watchful eye of activities and fundraising support offer Ben Gilder.
 

YOU might think the bell inside the ball would make it easy to work out where on the table to sweep your wooden paddle.

But the speed of the serves and shots in showdown can mean the ball is beyond you before you know it.

The game was invented in the 70s by Canadian Joe Lewis for people with visual impairment, but the blindfolds mean anyone can take part.

The aim is to bat the ball into your opponent’s net using the table’s sides and curved corners. Two points per goal — first to score 11 wins.

A screen across the middle of the playing surface encourages keeping the ball grounded.

It’s a foul — and one point off — if you hit it or go off the table.

Sheffield Royal Society for the Blind, which also runs Rotherham Sight & Sound on Ship Hill, has brought showdown to its city HQ.

The charity learned about the game from one of its clients, Klaudia Orzel, who moved to Sheffield from Poland, where it is already popular.

She suggested the idea and fundraising manager Steve Loane sourced funding from Yorkshire Sports Foundation.

Klaudia (24) said: “I had only watched it but I knew how it was played. It was so great to finally play.

“It’s dynamic and it’s played individually. You are responsible for your actions on the table.”

Thursday afternoon showdown sessions have already seen visitors come from Edinburgh and Birmingham to try it out in addition to about a dozen regular SRSB clients.

Former security guard Mick     Gladwin has been travelling from his Greasbrough home to Sheffield to play.

He worked for Rotherham United, among others, until a degenerative condition meant the loss of most of his sight.

Recalling when his vision problems started, he says: “You’re in another world. It’s like trying to learn everything all over again.”

After being signposted to SRSB and Rotherham Sight & Sound, the 64-year-old ex-steel industry worker has relished the new opportunities.

Aside from practical support, the charities have led him to play visually impaired baseball for Team GB in Italy.

“That was last October and I’m still buzzing from it,” said Mick, who recently completed a 100ft abseil to raise charity funds and is now a befriender, making calls to people the charity supports to help cut isolation and loneliness.

“This place has opened doors for me, so I now want to give something back.”

Visually impaired archery, horseriding, tai chi, bowling and tennis are among the other SRSB activities. But the addition of showdown a few weeks ago is still the hot topic.

“It is just one of those games that really gets a grip on you,” said Mick. “It’s infectious, really addictive.”

Eight years ago, Jordan Hayles lost his sight to a rare genetic condition over a three-month period, which derailed his plans to become a teacher.

The 30-year-old, who completed his studies but became a sports massage therapist instead, was signposted to SRSB after his diagnosis.

Sheffielder Jordan was also part of the Team GB baseball team — and is undefeated at showdown (at the time of writing).

He said: “Showdown gets my adrenaline going.

“Everyone hits it hard though... I think they’re aiming at me! I like to play it a bit softer.

“There’s new stuff happening here all the time. Hopefully we can add more sports too.”

For the record, I lost my two matches 11-9 and 11-2 — the latter ending with the indignity of conceding a foul for serving incorrectly.

The appeal of the game is clear though... it’s a level playing field and you will always believe you can do better.

SRSB marketing manager Jane Peach said: “We believe there’s only one other charity with showdown in the UK.

“They’re in Croydon and have already challenged us to a match.”

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