Life has been full of challenges for Noah Beckman, and he hasn't hesitated to tackle each one.

So when a friend urged him to join a local group of visually impaired athletes in October 2018 to participate in periodic soccer practices, he didn't have to think twice.

Being visually impaired since birth hasn't deterred Beckman, 27, from succeeding in his daily endeavors when others might have remained on the sidelines.

"This is the hand I've been dealt," said Beckman, who grew up in Dublin and now lives in Clintonville. "I can either live life to the fullest or let it bother me, so I choose the first option."

Those practices rekindled Beckman's childhood love for soccer, leading to him applying and being accepted to participate in a Blind Soccer National Team Camp organized by the United States Association of Blind Athletes from Dec. 6-9 in San Diego.

"There were athletes there with all levels of experience," he said. "I was probably one of the more experienced people with blind soccer. There were people there who had never played until that day. ... I went there and now I'm hooked."

As the only local athlete to attend the 11-person camp, Beckman was joined in California by coach Katie Atkinson, who helped form the local soccer group in Columbus.

Beckman, who played youth soccer in Dublin, credits Atkinson for assisting him in learning fundamentals of the sport such as passing and dribbling along with providing support and encouragement.

"As his sight got progressively worse, he obviously didn't play any longer," said Atkinson, who is a therapeutic recreation specialist for Columbus Recreation and Parks. "The familiarity with the game was there, which was exciting, and that's when I knew he was not only a good athlete, but you could tell that his enjoyment for it was there as well."

Beckman is hoping his opportunity to compete at the national level will lead to further invitations, including representing the U.S. at the international level.

"I learned a lot in San Diego," he said. "There are a lot of good players, a lot of good talent. I'm going to have to fight and focus when I practice here with Katie and my team on the fundamentals and getting better every week. I need to keep in shape and eat well because I'm not getting any younger. There were players there who were 19, 17.

"I'm a very aggressive player, I'm pretty fearless, and in San Diego that's where I succeeded the most. When I fight people for the ball, I eventually get it."

As the host country for the 2028 Summer Olympics/Paralympics in Los Angeles, the U.S. receives an automatic bid to participate in the Paralympics. The U.S. Association of Blind Athletes will use camps similar to the one held in San Diego to help identity athletes to participate in international play by 2021 in preparation of the 2028 games.

Beckman is hoping to be a part of that contingent.

"It would mean so much to me to represent myself, my family, my community, my city here in Columbus," he said. "I'm a very proud resident of this town and of course to represent my country on an international stage would be so awesome. It's an opportunity of a lifetime, so I'm going to do whatever it takes to make sure I'm there."

The game is played on a 40-meter long by 20-meter wide field with barriers on the sidelines to keep the ball and players in the field of play. The ball has ball bearings inside to create a rattling noise when in motion.

Defensive players also are instructed to create a sound to help identify themselves as they approach an offensive player.

Each team has five players on the field, including a goalkeeper, who is sighted. Athletes in the field are blind or visually impaired and wear darkened eye shades to create a level playing field.

Coaches also assist in helping the players shoot as they approach the goal.

"When everybody is blindfolded, verbal communication is a key," Beckman said. "There were some people during the drills and during the games by the end of the camp that weren't talking. I spoke up and encouraged them to talk more. That was my main piece of advice."

Beckman was born with a condition known as Leber congenital amaurosis, a retinal disease.

"I've always been legally blind, but my vision has gotten steadily worse over time," he said. "I cannot detect a hand moving in front of my face in dim light. From the start, I was legally blind. It started to drop off when I was in high school and has steadily declined ever since."

Beckman attended Bailey Elementary School and Grizzell Middle School in Dublin. He attended Dublin Coffman for two years before finishing his high school requirements at Whetstone and the Ohio State School for the Blind, earning his diploma in 2011.

He is a 2015 graduate of Ohio State, where he earned a bachelor's degree in finance, and has worked for the U.S. Treasury Department for the last four years as a bank examiner.

Beckman started playing soccer at 8 years old in the Dublin Parks and Recreation Department and competed until he was 13. He recalls his parents using walkie-talkies for communication to assist him on the field.

"He has a good sense of humor and he is probably one of the more independent athletes I have on my team," Atkinson said. "You could tell that he played sighted soccer when he was younger, and his parents put a microphone in his shirt to direct him towards the ball. He seemed to have that ability from playing before."

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