By Chloe Colvard | 6 January 2021
In recent years there have been big changes in the sports world to try to include all athletes into sports programs. Inclusivity is more important than ever today, and it’s up to the leaders of these programs to get on top of the situation. As a hearing Athlete I have begun to see the changes in my sport to adapt and find everything needed so deaf athletes can compete in more competitions, all while being involved in the team atmosphere.
For instance in my own sport of competitive swimming, in a race the way the swimmers know when to dive in the water is two blows of a whistle and a loud beep. In the higher NCAA meets USA swimming has begun to implement a new kind of starting system into all of their meets. I have had the privilege to have swam a meet with this light starting system. The Athleads will all get on the block at the same time, take your mark will be said symiltamly lights under the block will turn red, and when it is time to go the lights will turn green with the beep. Deaf swimmer Faya Frez-Albret, at Gallaudet University tried the LED light starting system for the first time back in 20l7. Frez-Albert on her swimming, “but, in swimming is really just a place where I feel I have a skill and a pretty equal playing field.” Hopefully the new deaf friendly system will encourage more people to compete in swimming with a more inclusive environment. After all light travels faster than sound.
Other sports such as Basketball, Volleyball, Soccer, and Football are having a little bit of a harder time with finding a way to make the necessary adjustments to their sports. All of those sports primarily used whistles to single out the players on the field and to make calls. However in an article called “Deaf Football Players Find a Novel way to Communicate” on the hearing and deaf highschool team called the Silent Warriors in Alabama the plays tell how they feel like they have the advantage with a special language on the team that uses both verbal and non-verble communication. The captain of the team at the time Zachaery Beaver said this “It’s kinda like an element of surprise because most of the time they don’t know what we’re saying”. This is a fantastic example of how some sports really don’t even have to change and all we as a people just have to learn to be more inclusive.
As a teenage athlete, I have seen the changes just in the past few years as coaches are being provided with tools to learn ASL. There was a girl on my swim team a few years ago who I carpooled with and she managed to help teach the whole swim team some basic ASL. Even Though, she left the team to go play soccer, almost the whole team still remembers what she taught us. It is truly incredible the impact that she had on the team. Just look at what we can do as a people when we are all united!