By: Lisa May
March 9, 2013
In mathematics, 103
is a more powerful expression than 10 x 3. Accordingly, athletes
more powerful than athletes who are concentrating. This is an
important factor when one considers three critical components in
many organized sport competitions: the use of hand signals,
the ability to ignore auditory distractions, and the ability to
react to motion in the periphery. The majority of athletes
hone these three skills through focused concentration. Deaf
athletes have concentrated skills naturally suited to perform them!
Hand signals are used in all manner of sporting
competition today. They are used by football coaches to signal
plays to the defensive captain in the huddle, they are used by point
guards to set the play of teammates on a basketball court, and they
are used extensively in beach volleyball to communicate placement
and strategy. The list goes on and on with the most famous use of
hand signals being those used on a baseball field between the base
coaches and their batters / base runners. Not surprisingly, the use
of hand signals in baseball traces its roots to the late 1800's and
a talented Deaf ballplayer by the name of William Ellsworth "Dummy"
Hoy. The earliest references to Hoy's use of hand signals were in
1887 when he devised a method of identifying the umpire's pitch
count by having the third base coach signals balls with his left
hand and strikes with his right hand
In the first of three critical skill sets, hearing
athletes across all sports must concentrate to learn how to
interpret these often-elaborate play calls while their Deaf
counterparts effortlessly react to them as second nature.
Many an NFL stadium boasts the "loudest" environment
in football as a means of exciting fans to cheer at decibels that
disrupt the quarterback's snap count and play calls. Basketball
fans across the country, from high school to the NBA, know that
higher noise levels equates to missed free throws. Visit any little
league field in America and the sounds of "hey batter, hey batter,
SWING!" fill the air while the catcher babbles non-stop to distract
the batter from behind. Thus, athletes are taught at an early age
to concentrate on the ball and ignore the noise. For a Deaf
athlete, this is merely business as usual.
Peripheral vision is a college-sized word that every
elementary school athlete can use fluently in a sentence. Defensive
backs are taught to watch the quarterback while seeing the receiver
with their peripheral vision.
Point guards are taught to make no-look passes to teammates in their
peripheral vision. Enter the Deaf athlete's secret weapon.
Research suggests "Deaf people with enhanced vision can thank
otherwise idle brain cells for their heightened sense" since "the
brain recruits cells normally devoted to hearing to help them see
better". According to Stephen Lomber, "The brain is very efficient
and it's not going to let this huge territory that is the auditory
cortex and all the processing that it has go to waste"
(Than, 2010, para. 1).
He further states, "These visual functions [that are enhanced] don't
just randomly redistribute, rather they actually seem to take up
residence in an auditory area that would perform a similar function"
(Than, 2010, para. 10). This supports the conclusion of
researchers at Gallaudet University who point out that Deaf
people do not see better but rather they see differently with a heightened
visual attention in their peripheral vision
(Maizkuhn, 2011, para. 2).
For the vast majority of athletes, practice makes
perfect and they can outperform their opponent with a disciplined
level of concentration. For Deaf athletes, there are key elements
of enhanced performance that are not reliant upon illegal substances
– they are simply powerful enhancements that can be explained
through the mathematical expression Athletes CONCENTRATED
> Concentrating Athletes.
Biography. (n.d.). Retrieved March 9, 2013, from www.dummyhoy.com/overview/bio.html
(2011, June 28). Gallaudet Finds Deaf People Don’t See Better,
They See Differently (Rebecca Sheir, Interviewer) [Radio
broadcast]. Retrieved from http://wamu.org/news/11/06/28/gallaudet_finds_Deaf_people_dont_see_better_they_see_differently.php
Than, K. (2010). Why the Deaf Have Enhanced Vision. Retrieved from
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