Are you aware of any professional athletes with hearing loss? You may have heard of Derrick Coleman, who was the first legally deaf offensive player in the NFL. Or perhaps you watched a baseball game played by Curtis Pride, who, in 1993, was the first legally deaf player in the MLB in over 50 years.
While these athletes and others are inspiring in how they have overcome obstacles in order to succeed, the number of well-known athletes with hearing loss is sadly few. This is due at least in part to the difficulties players with hearing loss often encounter while participating in sports.
Imagine for a moment the challenges you might encounter in team sports if you are deaf or hard of hearing. You may not be able to hear the referee’s whistle to indicate that play should start or stop. You may also miss other important signals, such as the start of a race. You may not be able to understand what your coach tells you in a huddle or from the sidelines. You may not be able to effectively communicate with your teammates.
Due to these difficulties and others, children with hearing loss are often left out of team sports, or they may eventually give up and withdraw because of the challenges these sports present. This can be damaging to the child’s self-confidence, friendships, social activity, physical health, and overall development.
If you have a child with hearing loss or if you coach a team sport, it is important to know how children with hearing loss can be better included. Here are a few tips to help you include your child with hearing loss in team sports:
If you have a child with hearing loss:
- Communicate with your child’s coach about your child’s needs and what might be most helpful to your child.
- Ask whether trained support staff for children with sensory challenges are available. While support staff may not be available for the entire league, there may be sufficient resources to provide support staff for one or two teams.
- Show your child’s coach or the team’s support staff how your child’s hearing device works.
- Consider becoming a coach for your child’s team. Become involved in your child’s school sports by attending athletic department meetings and encouraging the coaches to become better educated on how to assist players with differing needs.
If you are coaching a team that includes one or more children with hearing loss:
- Reach out to parents and ask how you can best support their child. Express a willingness to learn.
- Understand that each situation is different. A solution that works for one child with hearing loss may not work for another. Keep in mind that other needs may be present on the team as well, such as children with attention deficit disorder, autism spectrum disorder, and more.
- Encourage team members to ask questions to learn how to better support the player with hearing loss. Promote respectful conversations about their challenges and solutions.
- Face the players when you speak to them.
- If you show a video, especially one with poor audio, provide a transcript.
- When you discuss plays on the drawing board, add clear text labels.
- After reviewing a game or discussing other important information, provide a written note detailing what you discussed
These simple tips can play a big role in making team sports an easier and more enjoyable experience for all children.
To learn more about how to accommodate and advocate for children with hearing loss, we welcome you to contact our hearing practice today. We are eager to assist you!