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Lifting with RIT/NTID Athletes

January 5, 2018

By: Heather D'Errico, RIT strength coach

With one semester as the strength coach here at RIT under my belt, I have learned many things about working with RIT/NTID athletes. My first few days working here I actually hadn’t considered what it would be like having deaf and hard-of-hearing athletes in the weight room. I will never forget my first team with a deaf athlete who had brought an interpreter in. I wasn’t sure how slow to speak, who to look at, or how to demonstrate the exercises in a way they would understand fully. I went with the flow that day and then thankfully Skip Flanagan, RIT/NTID athlete development coordinator, came by the weight room to give me some pointers.

I have found it is really simple to communicate by making sure you make eye contact and demonstrate the movement a few times, pausing to speak in between so the athlete can lip read. As a typical Italian I naturally use my hands when talking, but I also tend to talk very fast. Learning to slow down when I am speaking to a group and demonstrating, especially if there is an interpreter that needs to catch up, has been helpful. I have found many signs for items in the weight room are exactly how you would try to describe it anyways (for example the sign for barbell is literally trying to show what a barbell is with your hands….mind blown). Cueing for exercises actually tends to be the exact same as I do with every athlete—showing them visually and/or physically helping them get into the correct position by adjusting their shoulders or hips.

I would like to learn more signs and continue to educate myself to converse more with RIT/NTID athletes. But for now I keep learning as I go, and it makes me happy when I see athletes have “aha moments” when I am correcting them on movements and it makes sense to them. It also is rewarding to see how happy it makes them when you take the extra time to help them and make sure they understand. They are so eager to learn and work hard in here. Nothing makes me as satisfied after a session in the weight room like when they come up and give me a fist bump on the way out…which is pretty universal for thank you with respect and approval.