By MARCI WILSON M.S.
Teacher for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing,
Carson City School District, Nevada, USA
Sports and the Deaf
I recently attended a high school basketball game. One of
the team members on the other team was deaf. I was very interested since this player was one of my former
students; also, I had worked with the interpreter for several years a few years ago. I was fascinated to see how these two worked
together. I also watched the coach and all team members adapt communication.
The interpreter watched carefully, understood all the plays, and knew exactly where to be. If there was a
time out, she was either next to the coach, signing, or directly across from the deaf athlete, signing. When the deaf student was
playing, she positioned herself on side lines in his direct line of view and signed information the coach was giving.
The student's eyes were always moving. Not only did he have to watch the game, his teammates, his
opponents, the person he was guarding, and all the other things basketball players must be aware of; but he also had to
keep looking to the interpreter and the coach for additional information others could hear. I could not see any
excuses made for this team member. He made baskets, got rebounds, guarded zone or opponents as called for, attended to time out
instructions, communicated with his teammates on the floor, and his coach on the sidelines. The team had developed some very
subtle manual cues to assist not only in communication, but in "keeping secrets".
He wants to go on to college and play sports.
GO FOR IT!!
Deaf have made important contributions to sports both in the past and the present.
1. Paul D. Hubbard, quarterback for Gallaudet University, 1892, 1893, 1894, and 1895, claims credit for the
invention of the football huddle. When Pauls deaf team at Gallaudet, a university for the deaf, played against
other deaf teams, Paul wanted to keep signals private so they began to "huddle" and sign. (Reference Deaf Heritage: A
Narrative History of Deaf America, Jack R. Gannon 1981.)
2. William Ellsworth Hoy, "Dummy" Hoy, 1862-1961, was the first deaf player in major league baseball. He may
have started the use of hand signals that are still used today in the game of baseball throughout the world. Here is a quote from
"When he began his professional career in Oshkosh, all umpires' calls were shouted. While at bat, Hoy had to ask his
catcher if a ball or strike had been called. The opposing pitcher took advantage of Hoy's distraction, quick-pitching
him--sending out the next pitch before he was ready. ... Around 1887, Hoy wrote out a request to the third-base coach, asking him
to raise his left arm to indicate a ball, his right arm for a strike. Hoy could follow the hand signals after each pitch, and be
ready for the next. And the umpires and other players found these signal so useful that they became standard practice--they-re
still used everywhere. Hoy adapted the"out" and "safe" signals from ASL."
"Thus, the intricate system of baseball hand signals--the umpire's signals, manager's call signals to
batters, and the outfielders' call signals now used in all levels of baseball and softball, can be traced to him."
3. Curtis Pride, 1968, is a Major League Baseball outfielder who plays for the Los Angeles of Anaheim as of
2004. He is 85% deaf, can speak, reads lips, and is fluent in sign language. He started a foundation, Together With
Pride, to help deaf and hard of hearing youth. (See
4. Ryan Ketchner, 1982, is a left-handed pitcher in the San Diego Padres organization. He is deaf, but he
wears hearing aids in both ears to help him be aware of the presence of sound and vibrations. Here is a quote from Wikipedia,
the free encyclopedia:
Ketchner says his only disadvantage is that he isn't able to hear the communication that takes place on
the infield--who is calling for the popup, who is covering on a bunt, etc. And if the catcher wants to go to the mound to speak
with Ketchner, he must take off his catcher's mask in order for the pitcher to be able to read his lips. Ketchner is so
adept at lip-reading that he was able to pick up the words of the coach in the opposing dugout during a high school game.