June 5, 2018
You’re on a team, and this fall you have a deaf teammate for the first time. I’ve seen so many people experience this type of culture shock.
From my personal experience as a deaf teammate, (I’m sure many others can relate) I always felt that they thought I had 10 eyes and four arms. It took them a while to get used to me. But it happens every year when freshmen come in.
So, to help mitigate this whole “culture shock” situation, here’s a little list of do’s and don’ts for you to utilize.
DO: Go for it
You might be nervous, and things might be a little awkward at first. But once you make that jump, and try and make it happen. You can only go up from there. If you’re willing to put up with the learning curve, maybe look silly in the process, and struggle a bit, you’re going to pick things up significantly faster than if you don’t go for it.
DO: Put in some effort
We appreciate any kind of effort hearing athletes make in trying to connect with the Deaf and hard-of-hearing community. So, please take the time to pick up the alphabet, basic signs and take the time to interact with the Deaf and hard-of-hearing community—both on and off the field. This will help the team dynamics tremendously, boost the team chemistry, and bring the program towards a championship mentality.
DO: Ask questions
I’m sure there are always a lot of questions popping up in a hearing athlete’s head about the Deaf culture, community and the nuances of things. Go ahead and ask these questions. It’s a part of the learning process, and will help avoid some awkward assumptions. Some FAQs for you now; yes, we can drive, we have an alarm clock that shakes the bed, and we don’t need speech lessons. But go ahead and start the conversation, so you can get to know your deaf and hard-of-hearing teammates better.
There is nothing that screams “chemistry killer” more than avoiding your teammates. First impressions last. So, don’t be too shy and make the first contact. I personally go ahead and introduce myself to everyone, so they don’t have to make the decision whether to approach me or avoid me.
DON’T: “Never mind”
Ask any deaf or hard-of-hearing person on campus what their greatest pet peeves are, and chances are that they’ll tell you the “never mind” story. Oftentimes hearing athletes are asked to clarify or repeat themselves, and after a while it’ll get old. So “never mind” happens, and it’s going to annoy any deaf or hard-of-hearing person around. So, we ask you to be patient and repeat yourself.
DON’T: Take the easy way out
It took me a few years to establish a strong relationship with my teammates because I had to juggle them with the Deaf community. I’m literally building two different sets of friendships and brotherhoods at the same time. Some of the athletes tend to take the easy way out and run with their cliques. It’s easy to do that, but it’s important that you don’t do that. Understand that there are many different communities involved within the deaf world and be patient. Take the time to be there, get to know each other, and that’ll boost the team success.
There you have it, some do’s and don’ts of being a hearing teammate. The whole experience is an exciting one, with a lot of highs and lows. But if you go about it with an open mind, you’re going to take off. And the team will follow suit.