Deaf on the Field
Lee Woodruff has a neat way of describing her daughter who is hard of hearing: a child with a different ability.
I was thinking of this recently as I watched my youngest kiddo on the football field during a huddle. I could see that he was straining to lipread what was being said by the team leader. As they broke up and settled into position, his teammate quickly said something to him and he scooted further down the line. The players moved at the snap of the ball and I watched as my youngest was pummeled back by a player much bigger than him. My kiddo suddenly turned and let the bigger player slide past him. He took off running and I watched in amazement as he dove and wrapped his arms around a player's legs. The quarterback slammed into the ground-- the ball still in his hands.
This was the kid who wanted to quit football after the first week of practice. He came home after the second practice and basically had a meltdown.
"It's too hard. I don't understand what to do," he said. "The big kids keep knocking me down!"
The hubby and I sat down with him and explained that the other first time kids were feeling the same way. "It's a learning process," we told him. "Give it some time and see if it gets better."
We had an interpreter for practice to see if that would help but found that Steven preferred to look at the coaches directly. So indeed, he learned to play football via the school of hard knocks--literally. He just had to learn by trial and error. He learned by watching others on the field and slowly figured out what was expected of him on the field. Fortunately, he grew up with most of the kids on the team, playing baseball and basketball with them for several years. Most of the kids knew what to do to make communication happen on the field. They gestured, they used the signs they knew and went up to him to explain the plays. I watched this same thing happen with my oldest son when he played high school football--the quarterback communicated every play directly to my son before they lined up.
A different ability.
That sentence made me reflect back on the different coaches we have had over the years with our kids. One particular coach stands out in my mind. My son played two years of baseball with this coach. At first, he seemed like a great coach--he informed the umpires that David was deaf and would gesture if he needed David to move somewhere on the field. More and more during the first season, I noticed that my son was benched a lot more than the other kids. I fumed about this to my husband and felt that something was not right.Continued on the next page