Rochester School for the Deaf basketball coach Dennis Hanson says his type of job
requires an extra amount of effort, and those not willing to put out won't last much
more than a year. In many ways thisd environment matches learning situations elsewhere,
but one huge difference is in the level of feedback along the process.
HANSON: You think "I'm working so hard trying to get these kids to understand things-
why don't they understand them. Maybe I'm not a good teacher." And over a period of
years you discover that you and I hear things over and over and over and over again-
it gets reinforced. They don't hear those things as a daily happening in their lives.
They don't pay any attention to it. So you have to be specifically looking at them,
make sure they're getting the information and then they'll respond positively towards
it. And it just takes you and them a long time to get to that point.
The mechanics and fundamentals of the game of basketball won't change.
HANSON: There's absolutely no difference. The only thing you need to do is give them
opportunities to do it. You and I played at home with kids around the block day in and
day out. And very often these kids maybe don't get a chance to do that at home because
they can't communicate as well with hearing kids so a lot of times they'll stay away.
They don't get that early learning that you and I got- on how to dribble, on how to pass.
And so they have to develop that later and sometimes they don't get to be as highly
-skilled because of that.
The obvious hurdle for the deaf sports team's execution is the communication.
HANSON: When you're talking about hearing teams, the coach is constantly screaming on
the sidelines, yelling encouragement, yelling plays, changing plays, warning "Look out
for that pic on the right!" We can't do that at all. In any situation that comes up in
a game, I have to try and remember that or write it down so that we can go through that
during practices.. so the kids are going to be aware of it when it may happen in a game,
so they know to react.
The hearing-impaired players then becomes more aware, more attentive to what's going
on, on the court. The kids are instructed to look to the bench- and coach- anytime the
whistle blows and action stops.
HANSON: If you're looking for something positive that happens: I can use my sign language
so that my team knows that I want them to do something. The crowd becomes a non-factor,
because they don’t hear the crowd. So they can really focus more on what's happening, so
offensively when we're playing, we can do pretty well. It's defensively, when the other
team is doing things behind our backs so to speak, that we have a problem.
All sports coaches learn of the frustration level that comes with the games. The
players, too, have to learn to deal with it.
HANSON: Their frustration level- no question- is very high sometimes. We get into games
where we're getting beat pretty good and I still have to push the kids to continue to
work hard. And one of the things that I really enjoy about working with these kids is
that they never give up. And they're not willing to give up. The score can be
astronomically against us, and they'll continue to work just as hard as when the score
Because most of Hanson's team are dormitory students and go home on weekends,
practice time is limited. RSD would have to travel out of town to face other deaf teams.
Ninety-five percent of their schedule is versus hearing-aided squads.
HANSON: They don't want my kids to beat them. They're looking at my kids as handicapped
kids and "there's no way in the world that they should beat us." And quite often we do,
and it really makes the other teams play even harder.
Many times, longevity leads to accomplishment. But sports victories and defeats at
RSD represent more than what goes on between the lines.
HANSON: I think it's important in the aspect of continuing to work toward the goal of
not to win games but to do the best we can do. And if winning happens, then that's okay,
we'll except that. If we lose we're pretty good at accepting that, too. And that's part
of playing. If you're going to play the game you need to learn to do both.
Rochester School for the Deaf Wildcats basketball coach, Dennis Hanson. Bill Flynn,