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Deaf Sports Athletes Concentrated

By: Lisa May
March 9, 2013


Athletes Concentrated


In mathematics, 103 is a more powerful expression than 10 x 3.  Accordingly, athletes concentrated are 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 ("," n.d.).

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.




A Capsule Biography. (n.d.). Retrieved March 9, 2013, from

Maizkuhn, M. (2011, June 28). Gallaudet Finds Deaf People Don't See Better, They See Differently (Rebecca Sheir, Interviewer) [Radio broadcast]. Retrieved from

Than, K. (2010). Why the Deaf Have Enhanced Vision. Retrieved from (


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