the Deaf Community
April 3, 2009
and the Deaf Community
I have played football since I was nine, so for about eleven years.
I have a love for the game and I am always learning from others. In
Pop Warner football my close friend named Anthony Black was 80%
deaf, he and I were very close through the years we played with each
other. He had many challenges to overcome; he would have to go to
the coaches in order to see the play we were going to run, he had to
write on a piece of paper in order to communicate with the coaches,
and he had a hard time talking to us to get help. There are many
obstacles that deaf football players have to go through in order to
In 1894 a deaf football player at Gallaudet University invented the
huddle after getting frustrated that the opposing teams would try to
watch the signals and guess what they were about to run (Fookembug).
There have been two deaf players in the NFL: Kenny Walker with the
Denver Broncos in the early 1990s and Bonnie Sloan for the St. Louis
Cardinals in 1973 (Yasinskas). This proves that it is not impossible
for a deaf football player to reach the professional level. With the
way our world is changing, there are more and more opportunities for
people with disabilities to move up in the world and pursue their
I was able to speak to my friend Anthony to receive a little insight
to how he was able to overcome his challenges through high school
football. The first question I wanted to know was; Was it hard for
you to communicate with the other players and coaches? “It wasn’t
too hard for me to understand what my coaches were trying to tell me
but it was very difficult for me to ask my coaches questions. During
my junior and senior year, I was lucky enough to have an interpreter
to communicate with my coaches for me. With the help from the
interpreter, I was able to communicate just like a hearing person”
he said. (Anthony Black) What were some challenges you had to
overcome? “Well of course the communication problem, but there were
many time when other football players would make fun of me and I
would not even know about it because I could not hear them. They
would taunt me and do things behind my back, and it really made me
upset and sad. I had to learn to forget about what people say and
just be myself”. (Anthony Black)
The Deaf community has had a large impact on the way football is
played today, there are many deaf football leagues that kids are
able to join, and just because you’re a deaf person does not mean
you can’t make it to the NFL, you just need to be dedicated and work
hard toward your goal. This was a great topic to research and I am
glad that I have learned some new things about the way deaf culture
has influenced the way we play football today.
Black, Anthony – Deaf friend that I played football with. Picture:
Fookembug, Bug. (2009, February 1). Deaf Football Player Invented
the American Football Huddle. Retrieved April 3, 2009: http://fookembug.wordpress.com/2009/02/01/deaf-football-player-invented-theamericanfootball-huddle/
Yasinskas, Pat. (2008, Ferurary 21). For Van Zant, it's More Than
Just the Injury. Retrieved April 3,2009: http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/draft08/columns/story?id=3257497
Football and the Deaf
I am very passionate about football and have been for many years.
I have been playing football since the age of seven. I used to know
very little about the connection of ASL and Football. Here I will
discuss the connection between the two as well as what ASL has done
for the game of Football.
Growing up I never realized how much of an influence ASL had on
the game of football. I always thought that people who were hard of
hearing or deaf could not play football because they couldn’t get
the play calls due to the fact that they could not hear very well or
could not hear at all. I was proven wrong when I entered high school
because we had a player who was deaf and hard of hearing. He was
actually an extremely good player even with a slight disadvantage.
He even earn a football scholarship after his junior season but his
dreams were cut short when he ended up blowing his ACL, MCL, and
Meniscus. At the end of my high school career my views of deaf/hard
of hearing people had changed dramatically. Not only did he prove my
narrow minded views about deaf and HH people but also proved to me
that not only can they play the game but play the game at a high
level just like any other person.
"The football huddle was invented at Gallaudet as a way to keep
opposing teams from eavesdropping on the instructions the
quarterback gave his teammates in ASL" (Lifeprint). That is just one
of the many fascinating facts about football and ASL. Signal
calling from a coach to the players on the field was influenced by
ASL. The coaches give signals to their players to get the play call
into the huddle. Without the signal calling coaches would have to
sub a player in each and every play to and give the the play just so
the unit on the field got the call, (Sportsattic). There have been a
numerous amount of deaf football players in the history of football.
Some believe as a defensive lineman you have a slight advantage
being deaf because the opposing quarterback can not give you a "hard
count" to draw you offsides. Also ASL expects believe that deaf
players pick up tendencies of opposing players because they are more
observant due to the simple fact that they are unable to hear, (Fookembug).
Signing has played a role into evolving football into the game it is
today. In my experience my coaches have made us wear ear plugs at
times so we can not focus so much on the noise but the body language
of the opposing players. Hand signals are also used all over the
nation in every level of football, from grade school football to the
pro's. Signing and gestures have done a lot for the game and without
their heavily influence--the game would not be the same.
Bush, Susan. (2007, Feb. 22). What’s the Scoop: On The Football
Huddle?. iBerkshires.com. Boxcar Media, LLC. Retrieved 4, Nov. 2007:
Grayson, G. (2003). Talking With Your Hands, Listening With Your
Eyes: A Complete Photographic Guide to American Sign Language.
Garden City Park, New York: Square One Publishers, Inc.
Stewart, D.A., E. (2006). American Sign Language the Easy Way.
Hauppauge, New York: Barron’s Educational Series.
On 4/7/2009, Blaine Jackson writes:
With all my experience playing the game of football I know that it
is a very physical and auditory game. It is a game where calling
plays making audible during plays communicating verbally before,
during, and after a plays happens every down. It is hard to imagine
playing football as a deaf person. The sounds of the game are often
talked about among former football players. The sounds of the hard
hits, and the talking that goes on between plays but for some young
football players their memories of the game will be of the sites and
feelings from when they played the great game of football.
In the article about the Fighting Spartans in Columbus, Ohio at
(http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/story?id=3727924&page=1) the Fighting
Spartans play 8 man football as apposed to the regular 11 man teams.
They have a small league but they are also a small school. They
themselves and their parents talk of the deep comradery they have
among the players and how being deaf and being able to enjoy the
experience of playing football has brought them together. Playing
football for me has helped me make some great friend and it has also
helped me become the man I am today. I would hate for the simple
fact that a young man is deaf to keep him from the chance to have
the same great experiences that I was blessed with during my life.
Even though the Fighting Spartans aren't the biggest school and they
don't get the most recognition they are happy to be able to play the
game with their fellow teammates and take it for all its worth.
In another story about a deaf high school football team it is not
small time football at all
the Silent warriors are an all deaf football team that has won the
national championship for hearing and deaf schools. They are team
that relays on their execution of perfect plays, their speed,
agility, and the confusion of silence on the field. Other teams
think that because they are saying anything that they aren’t playing
with passion or emotion but those are two things that the Silent
Warriors have plenty of, to say the least. Only 5 players on their
team are over 200 pounds. Where as on my high school football team
we had at least 20 players that tipped the scales over that amount.
Many of which were 40-50 over that amount. The Silent Warriors use a
snare drum to coordinate the timing of their plays and sign in their
play calls. When playing against other deaf teams they use number
signals to call the plays. It wasn't a concern for them when they
played hearing teams until the hearing teams brought in interpreters
to intercept their play calls.
At this site you can read of the history of the American Football
The huddle was invented for the very reason I discussed earlier.
Other deaf teams were reading the hand signals of the Gallaudet
University football team in 1894. So they gathered around in a
circle to prevent the other teams from seeing their signs. Hearing
football teams caught shortly after and now every team in world uses
a huddle unless of course they run hurry up offense where there is
no huddle at all.