Friday Night Lights, Sense of purpose http://www.rockymountainnews.com/drmn/prep_football/article/0,1299,DRMN_416_3242015,00.html
The joy for the
October 9, 2004
But after scoring on a slick run in the third quarter, Sam Harris and his teammates bypassed the theatrics common on high school football fields across
It was all they could do.
In the unusual subculture of
The Bulldogs can't hear the cheering of the crowd or the smack of a head-on tackle. They don't know a play has come to an end unless they see it. They rely on sign language or touch to communicate. And several players are football neophytes, which makes for long afternoons.
But that hasn't stopped coach Joe Manson, who is deaf - as are his wife, parents and grandparents. It hasn't slowed Austin Balaich, a sophomore lineman and member of the school's Academic Bowl team, which won the National Academic Bowl for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Students.
And it certainly hasn't discouraged Harris, who rushed for 514 yards against Boulder Justice last month, which was the third-best single-game mark in state history and thrilled students on the quaint 37-acre campus near downtown
"(Students) in the middle school, they said, 'Wow, you rushed for 500 yards!' " Harris said. "The school gets more excited about it. It makes an impression."
Added Manson: "It's one of my special moments of coaching at this school. It was amazing."
Action on the sideline
Every CSDB game amazes in different ways.
In the heat of the action, Manson and his players look like frantic charade players, flashing hand signals to convey everything from formations to congratulations.
On the sideline, cheerleaders encourage the team with silent chants. In the bleachers, fans hold their hands over their heads and wiggle their fingers, rather than applaud, when the team scores.
The student manager plays a major role, too, standing on the sideline next to a huge bass drum. Because the players cannot hear the quarterback call a cadence at the start of each play, the manager strikes the drum at the appropriate time. The vibration carries down the line of scrimmage, and the ball is snapped.
"This isn't abnormal - it's just not the normal," said Cheryl Balaich,
"We moved because we really like the deaf culture, the deaf environment. It's a very tight-knit family. When you're truly deaf, I think, that's important. I think a lot of it is self-esteem and self-worth. They feel like they can excel and be themselves and enjoy being around people."
The school opened in 1874 as the Institute for the Education of Mutes, when
Today, the campus includes stately stone buildings, a cafeteria, technology labs, dormitory rooms and athletic facilities that serve 280 students, ranging from preschoolers to young adults, about 50 percent of whom live on campus.
The goal: make students self-sufficient, which is where football comes into play.
"I want to win all the games," said Manson, who was an assistant coach for two seasons before becoming head coach in 2003. "But that isn't realistic. I believe what we do in practice and games will apply in their lives. When they graduate, they'll remember what they have learned through experience.
"I'm proud of being deaf. I was taught by my parents that I had to do twice as good as hearing people to get recognition among the community. . . . I won't stop my world just for the hearing. I can set a good example to young kids - that we can do many things."
CSDB won the eight-man state title in 1977, the
The Bulldogs traveled to
"The deaf world is a very small community. Deaf people know deaf people all over the
But football bragging rights are important, too.
"When they play other deaf teams, the kids kind of banter back and forth," Cheryl Balaich said. "Regular teams talk smack back and forth on the line, and so do these kids."
Watching her son play high school football is what Balaich dreamed of when she and her family moved from
"The stands were packed with ex-students," she said. "It was a mass turnout. Everyone had come back to see old friends. They were so busy talking, only a few were even watching the game.
"I grew up in a football family. I'm kind of a fanatic. My dad played and coached. My brothers played."
The Bulldogs struggled two weeks ago against Front Range Christian, but the CSDB community still seemed to enjoy the afternoon.
Several blind students sat in front-row bleacher seats, able to follow the action because the public-address announcer describes each play in extensive detail.
A group of younger deaf students played a game of Frisbee on the side, oblivious to the action. Cheerleaders danced happily on the sideline, though nothing of note was occurring on the field.
After a 48-12 loss, Manson delivered an upbeat critique in sign language, then his players lined up to shake hands with their opponents.
As they walked into the quiet of their locker room afterward - beaten badly but hardly fazed - the Bulldogs sent a message for all to hear.
"They usually don't come out a winning team, but they come out playing hard and working hard," Cheryl Balaich said. "They love the game."
Class A 8-Man, Independent
• Coach: Joe Manson
• Enrollment: 98
Deaf QB developed the huddle
By Clay Latimer, Rocky Mountain News
Every time they gather in a huddle to call a play, the
In 1894, the team's star quarterback, Paul Hubbard, was concerned that other teams were stealing his hand signals at the line of scrimmage. So he formed a circle of players to shield his signals.
In the process, he created the first huddle.
Times change, but not football.
Today, American Sign Language (ASL) is the third-most-used language in the
"A lot of them are getting more familiar and improving their signing skills," Manson said.
As a result, Bulldogs quarterbacks wear wristbands that list plays numerically. Manson signals plays by their numerals, reducing the chance of a stolen signal.
Help Kids Hear is a site dedicated to helping parents of deaf and hard of hearing (DHH) children. We are parents of hard of hearing kids and simply want to "give back" to the community. We welcome your comments, questions & suggestions. Please drop us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org.