Amanda Dennis knows the USA has a big opportunity ahead.
The 2018 International Blind Sports Federation (IBSA) Goalball World Championships will take place in Malmo, Sweden, in only 100 days, giving countries the chance not just to compete on the highest level but to further develop the sport.
“Our team focus has been about building up goalball not just within the six players on our team, but really increasing the level of play within our goalball national pool, and within the country,” she said.
“Moving into the Worlds, we have two international and four domestic competitions. The goal at the international events leading into Malmo is to see where we are at during that halfway point, versus where our competition is. And then come back home to sand down any rough edges and make that final push.”
Reigning world champions USA were pitted in Group D at the Worlds together with Rio 2016 silver medallists China, African champions Algeria, Americas champions Canada, Greece and Brazil.
First and foremost, the goal for the team this year is to earn a spot for Tokyo 2020 by placing top three at World Championships. Long term, Dennis shares some insight and the ambition to upgrade Rio 2016´s bronze medal to a gold.
“We're working hard right now to evolve with the game. USA plays 1992 goalball, which was basic goalball – players play on the wing-line, centres play straight up, and there is no player or defensive shift, which is now outdated.
“It helped us earn multiple medals, including our recent bronze in Rio, but you have to be better and evolve with the game, and not only that but be a catalyst to evolve the game. To force other teams to catch up with us and our players. Our coaching staff is taking that step forward to evolve our game, and we are at the level now that we can be a catalyst to now evolve the game further to make other teams want to catch up with us”.
The personal focus for Dennis this year is to work on her offence and throwing. At past big events she has played centre, therefore Dennis did not really throw too much during games.
Her focus was on defending throws well, but with the team evolving more, so must the athlete, and throwing is a huge part of goalball.
“We actually came back from a tournament in Montreal, Canada, where USA took first, and I received top goal scorer for the women's competition, so I'm already pleased with that result and eager to work harder”.
Dennis is currently one of the athletes in the USA Goalball Resident programme, she lives on site and trains every day with national team coaches and the strength and conditioning staff.
“My goal is to be the absolute best all-around player in the world by Tokyo 2020, and I'm taking every step that I can in the right direction at this point.”