Deaf in Basketball

Basketball is one of the most exciting sports to watch, especially when March Madness consumes the nation. Every game shows constant visual and verbal communication between the players, coaches, referees, and even the fans.

So how can a deaf and hard of hearing player succeed in an environment like this? Here are some tips:

Use deafness to your advantage
Despite what players say on TV, the crowd can get into players’ heads with chants and distractions. Watch a Duke University basketball game for an example of how crowd noise can affect visiting teams. The Kansas Jayhawks have their “Rock Chalk, Jayhawk” chant and Utah State has their “Winning Team, Losing Team” chant.

Crowd noise rattles opponents, whether they admit it or not. Many deaf and hard of hearing players, however, have the advantage of tuning out hostile crowds so they can maintain focus and composure.

Study, Study, Study!
No, not school (though, you should do that too!), but the game. Study game strategies, study the best ways to move around or anticipate a screen, how to defend a certain player, etc. The most successful athletes have an exceptional understanding of the game they play.

Develop alternative forms of communication
Visual communication is just as big a part of the game as verbal communication is. Point guards hold up fingers to signify a play; post players hold up an arm to signify that they want the ball; and coaches raise both arms to show they want more out of their defense.

Developing unique forms of communication benefits not only deaf and hard of hearing players, but also enables other teammates to effectively communicate amidst crowd noise and incorporate strategies without revealing plays to the other team. Coaches can use the following nonverbal methods to signal plays:

  • Signs with colors, images, or numbers
  • Open or closed coat (if the coach is wearing a coat)
  • Secretive gestures such as nose or head scratching, or crossed arms or legs
  • Holding up fingers, fists, or open hands

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