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Soccer and ASL
August 27, 2006 9:33 AM   Subscribe

Help me integrate a deaf child into my girls soccer team.

I coach a team of 8 year old girls in rec league soccer. Our team has been together for three years. This year we've been asked to take on a deaf player who has had problems fitting in with other teams (due to communication problems). My team was chosen because as a young person I was fluent in ASL (due to the illness of a sibling). Many years have passed, my skills have rusted considerably. No one else (kids or parents) on our team has any experience with ASL. We have discussed it, and we are all eager to learn and help.

Please offer specific suggestions on how we can give the kids enough communications abilities to play soccer together as a team, and for parents to learn enough ASL to support/welcome our new player.
posted by lostinsupermarket to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (13 answers total)
 
Gallaudet University is a university for the deaf and hard of hearing, and they have a full athletics program. I bet an email to the Women's Soccer coach (perhaps forwarded around to the players) would get you some great tips, and maybe some very nice links to further information.
posted by Rock Steady at 9:57 AM on August 27, 2006 [1 favorite]


Here's an online American Sign Language dictionary. Maybe not the most efficient way to update your skills, but a good resource for looking up individual words.
posted by peep at 10:01 AM on August 27, 2006


Find your local school for the deaf and go watch some of their soccer (or other sports teams) games to see how they work.

My local deaf school plays against local private schools and their basketball team puts the other schools to shame.
posted by MonkeySaltedNuts at 10:26 AM on August 27, 2006


Fingerspelling is quick and easy to learn. Maybe have an event where the interested girls can have a fingerspelling lesson, then give them a handout that they can take with them to keep working on it. You could even let the new girl be the teacher if she's outgoing. She could teach them some common words and some soccer words, too.
posted by leapingsheep at 11:55 AM on August 27, 2006


Britain seems to have more deaf leagues for adults than I'm familiar with in the US. You can poke around the British Deaf Football website and DeafOK.com's sports pages. This article about a deaf football player talks a little bit about what the coaches do that is different for deaf players as opposed to hearing players.

There is, as you might expect, a lot more in the way of visual cues. If you only have one deaf player, things like letting her know "there's someone BEHIND you" is going to be an important thing to be able to pass on, both for you and for her teammates, and it's something they might not even be aware she'd need help with. You may want to talk to the referee and make sure they know that your player may require hand signals and not cue in to just a whistle.

It's not ususual for deaf players to play with hearing players. Here's an article about a hearing impaired woman who plays NCAA division 1 soccer which also has some tips. My feeling is that with eight year olds you're already going to have a wide variety of skill levels so just making sure that you focus on good communication and visual contact, while at the same time teaching kids some of the words to at least make small talk with ASL (also make sure the new girl speaks ASL, it's possible though unlikely that she does not, you might also wantto talk to her parents to see what her lipreading skills are like, if she does any lipreading) especially the positive ones like "good job" or "nice play."
posted by jessamyn at 2:15 PM on August 27, 2006


I think the more you make this about team communication and less about "accommodating that deaf kid," the better it will be for everyone. For example, you might spend some time at practice talking about how communication is an important part of teamwork and ask the girls to develop their own signals for things like a desire to pass the ball to each other on the field. Make sure the hearing kids realize that this is for their own benefit, too-- for example, you could tell them that sometimes it's hard to talk to each other on the field when people in the stands are screaming or when you don't want the other team to know what play you're planning.

I suspect that some kids will be fascinated by fingerspelling and ASL and will pick it up right away, while others will be disinterested. So, while it would be great if you could at least instill the basics in the kids (how to say "good game" and whatnot) it'd probably be an uphill battle to get a bunch of eight year olds to learn a new language. Instead, I think the kids might be engaged if you work on developing a "team code." Like, "When someone on our team does something great, we'll give them the Thumb Waggle. It's a signal just for us Tigers!" I think the idea of special, team-only signs would appeal to kids in this age group and would make everyone feel included.
posted by chickletworks at 6:31 PM on August 27, 2006 [1 favorite]


Make sure the hearing kids realize that this is for their own benefit, too-- for example, you could tell them that sometimes it's hard to talk to each other on the field when people in the stands are screaming or when you don't want the other team to know what play you're planning

This is a great point. I recall reading a story about a deaf high school football (USian) team that wheeled a bass drum along the sideline to the line of scrimmage and beat out the snap count, instead of the QB yelling it, as the players could feel the bass vibrations. It intimidated their opponents so badly that they tried to get the practice banned, to no avail.

If the players feel like any "accomodations" they are making are to their own benefit, it will make it less of an issue. Also, at that age, I suspect the "secret team code" idea will greatly appeal to those girls.

Also, jessamyn's point about cluing in the officials is another good one, but it sounds like the league is already aware of the issue, and may have already made it clear to the refs (though at that age, it may just be volunteer-parent refs, and they might need a reminder).
posted by Rock Steady at 6:56 PM on August 27, 2006


I coached a team w/a deaf player (9 yr olds I think), many years ago. Boy's father volunteered as an assistant coach.

First of all, we placed the boy in defense, because of his abilities (not a shooter, but a big kid). If I recall, he played a center fullback position -- rover. This position was a fortunate, good fit for him because it seemed to require less bi-directional communication.

High volume yelling was helpful with this boy. Also, we worked extensively to help him understand how to anticipate correct positioning in different circumstances. Not easy, and imperfect, but seemed to work okay.

We didn't use ASL or an alternative, but probably would have helped considerably.
posted by pallen123 at 7:11 PM on August 27, 2006


If you can let the official know ahead of time, that is always awesome. (Volleyball official here, has referee-d for a completely deaf team versus a speaking team.) Typically officials can be accomodating, especially by making eye contact with the deaf player and trying to face them when talking (if they lip read).
Lip reading is something to keep in mind for you as a coach as well. I know when I was giving instructions to the two teams, I had to forcibly remind myself to keep my face straight towards the captain who couldn't hear me, otherwise she would've had no clue what I was saying!
I've also worked with a vball rec league that had a 2? players who were deaf, but could sign, with all other players speaking.

I think that the idea of making team signals for ALL the girls would be an awesome touch, and could be something that they could potentially use further on in their soccer career (if that's how these things work).

Definitely check out Galludet. They're right near me, and it is downright fascinating to watch them play. It's amazing. (And might be something you want to recommend to the girl or her parents if they think that being hearing impaired is going to prevent her from playing sports or things like that.)
posted by sperose at 10:35 PM on August 27, 2006


I hate to break the expensive news, but as a Title II/Title III entity (is it sponsored by the city? or just plays in a city league?) you probably need to hire a non-rusty sign language interpreter, particularly for team meetings and competitions. As I'm sure you know, there's really no inexpensive effective alternative to an interpreter. The reason deaf kids feel excluded communication-wise is not through lack of good intentions but through lack of interpreters/captioning.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 12:45 AM on August 28, 2006


i love the idea of the team code. communication between teammates is a hard thing to learn anyway - if these kids learn to do this non verbally, they will be way ahead of the pack. I agree it could benefit all of them in the long run.

There is a deaf football player at Oklahoma State. His lack of hearing was a big topic when he first started and I tried to find some articles on how they hoped to communicate with him. However, he has done so well, his deafness isn't even mentioned in the most recent articles so I couldn't find anything to link to. Lip reading played a huge part, but that is all i remember.
posted by domino at 7:52 AM on August 28, 2006


I'm amazed someone already mentioned the bass drum thing, because that's the first thing I thought of. I remember reading years ago about a football team (perhaps the same one?) that worked out their plays with the band, so it was all very covert - coach would signal the play to the band and then the drums would drum out that play count. Probably a little much for a kids soccer game, but food for thought.

Also, from my basketball days, when a point guard comes down the court he signals the play with his hand usually when calling it out. Standard practice b/c of noisy auditoriums, etc.. Definitely could use it in soccer.

And to build on that, in the military there are literally hundreds of hand signals that were for the most part developed within the services for their own use. Their objective was the ability to give orders / information without making sounds that could be heard by the enemy, but I'm sure you can see the conclusion here...for example you could number all the players (based on their jersey or position) and have a hand signal for pass (closed fist, whatever) and then flash the number for passing to that person, etc...
posted by allkindsoftime at 1:56 PM on August 28, 2006


PS To get help in getting the city/town to pay for interpreters (if it's a city-sponsored team), you could trying contacting your local Protection & Advocacy agency. See here.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 8:14 PM on August 28, 2006


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