Derrick Coleman is possibly the most well-known NFL football player following the Seahawks stomping of the Broncos. It is because he is the first professional football player to win a championship and be legally deaf.
Many stories of handicapped professional athletes are cropping up. Many lacrosse followers know Paul Rabil is 90% deaf in his right ear.
Though Rabil does not use a hearing aid, Coleman does. He claims his hearing without any aids are approximately 20% of the average person. With the aids on and working he can hear about 60-80% that of an average human.
RIT has a deaf friendly community that comes with extra courses offered for better understanding and assistance, and different organizations and programs to partake in.
The Sunday was cloudy, windy and chilly. Many of my teammates were thoroughly dehydrated due to extracurricular activities on the Saturday before. When our SUNY Oswego club team traveled an hour west to Rochester for a game against the Club Tigers, many players were discussing with each other how we would play against a deaf team.
Every athlete participating had to sign a waiver of understanding and compliance of playing a team with deaf players. When the ref would blow the whistle an opponent may keep defending you due to not hearing the call.
There are no guidelines in the NCAA rules of eligibility, participation or health and safety. The NCAA as an organization does promote the safety, health and academic standards they put forth, and are consistent participants in numerous research projects for injury recovery/prevention, academic upholding, and overall safety of its members (players, coaches and officials).
One must consider the nature of lacrosse for a handicapped individual. Personally, I do not suffer from a handicap disability but would imagine hearing whistles and coaches calls could be tough. Lacrosse communication is dynamic in that a coach may relay something out loud, or signal an individual player who in turns relays the message. This happens frequently in basketball and hockey, as well. All players must be vigilant at all times.
The RIT Club Tigers had three deaf players, if my memory serves me correctly. Two midfielders and a d-pole were audibly disabled, and I remember a defender for sure because once the whistle blew he kept at me. I just let him go until it went dead.
Of the two midfielders, one of the deaf was the face off specialist. Naturally as college club athletes, we mocked amongst ourselves how winning face offs was easy for us that day. On the contrary, we were humbled by our experience with the Tigers.
Their specialist won each and every single face off that day. I believe there were around 17 faces.
At the end of the competition, our teams lined up and shook hands. Then, myself and 3 others from the Oswego squad walked over to the RIT bench and personally thanked them for the opportunity to play them. We admitted we underestimated their abilities and were very looking forward to our next meeting.
We are currently experiencing an increase in disability awareness and these professional leagues and organizations do not restrict any handicapped individual. However, the odds to go that far and become a superstar are that stacked, which is what makes them the best of the best.