This article appears in the Pacific Northwest version of our April edition. Don’t get the mag? Join US Lacrosse today to start your subscription.

Keith Edgerton doesn’t need perfect vision to appreciate a lacrosse field. He can breathe in and smell the fresh cut grass. Open his ears and hear the shouts of excitement. The jingle of the ball as it cuts through the air. The alarm blaring from the goal reminding players where to shoot.

OK, this isn’t your average lacrosse field. But Edgerton isn’t your average lacrosse coach. Edgerton is legally blind. He coaches plenty of typical lacrosse games, but the game described above would be played at Camp Abilities Olympia, the sports camp he runs in Washington state for blind athletes. They play a modified version of lacrosse in which Edgerton fills a Wiffle ball with jingle bells and wraps duct tape around the holes so it won’t flutter in the wind. The goal is affixed with a buzzer so that players know where to shoot.

“When it comes to modified sports, if I can make the ball make noise or the goal make noise or players make noise, I’m golden,” Edgerton said.

Edgerton makes a pretty complicated solution seem simple. That’s one cool thing about going blind, Edgerton said. It made him a good problem solver. It wasn’t always so easy.

It started young. At first, he couldn’t see at night. Then came little pinheads that appeared in the corners of his vision. The same thing happened to his younger brother. They noticed it first playing sports. A missed bounce pass. Trouble following a hockey puck. When he was 13, he was officially diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa, a degenerative eye disease that causes severe vision impairment.

It was a crushing blow. Edgerton had dreamt of playing lacrosse in college. He didn’t always deal with the diagnosis in a healthy way. Too often, he ignored it. His vision progressively worsened, but he still managed to play on Kansas State’s club team.

This was the early 1990s on the Great Plains. You didn’t need perfect vision to play college lacrosse.

Still, Edgerton kept his diagnosis quiet. He took eye drops to dilate his pupils so he could see around his growing cataracts. He never explained why he occasionally missed ground balls right next to him.

At 35, a doctor told Edgerton he was legally blind. He had to stop driving. That’s about the only thing Edgerton stopped doing.

He learned to walk with a cane by traversing Seattle while wearing occluded glasses. He still skis, rides his bike and coaches lacrosse. It helps that the girls’ team he coaches in Olympia frequently plays on fields lined with coniferous trees that help the ball stand out. Even as he loses his vision, Edgerton, who is a US Lacrosse Coach Development Program Level 1 and Level 2-certified coach for both men’s and women’s lacrosse, can always follow the ball. For lacrosse lifers, some things never change.

Edgerton’s impaired vision does change how he coaches. He tries to position himself on the sideline in a spot where he’s less likely to get hit by an errant pass. His vision isn’t totally gone, it’s more like looking through a straw or a funnel, so it helps to be further back. It’s too dangerous to scrimmage with his team. When he wants a player to do something, it’s tough to show them. He has to explain. Edgerton learned by watching and imitating, so this doesn’t come naturally.

But he figures it out. After all, Edgerton is a problem solver. And he already figured out how to thrive while going blind. What could be tougher than that?

“For most of my life I was petrified of going blind,” Edgerton said. “To take away the fear was so life-changing. I’m not unique. We all have something that scares us. A lot of players are scared of failure, to the point that they won’t try. If my vision can help them overcome that, that’s awesome.”