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The Deaf Sports Movement:
Also see: "Deaf Sports"

Adam Miller
May 1, 2008

The Deaf Sports Movement

     One of the leading organizations of deaf athletics is the USA Deaf Sports Federation (USADSF 2006). Its purpose is to foster and regulate rules for competition while providing social outlets for deaf members and friends. The USADF serves as a parent organization of national sports organizations, conducts annual athletic competitions, and assists in the participation of US teams in international competition. All deaf and hard of hearing individuals with a hearing loss of 55dB or greater in the better ear are eligible. The use of hearing aids is prohibited in competitions which I found to be a very interesting rule. US Team participants must be American citizens and members of the Federation in good standing (USADSF 2006). The Federation is hosting the 16th Winter Deaf Olympics in 2007. Competition will take place at facilities in Salt Lake City, Utah. This is the first time the Winter Deaf Olympics has been held in the U.S. since the 1975 Games at Lake Placid, New York (USADSF 2006).

     There are two men generally associated with being the pioneers of the deaf sports movement, Eugène Rubens-Alcais of France and Antoine Dresse of Belgium. Eugène Rubens-Alcais (1884-1963) was a car mechanic and competitive cyclist. He led the Paris Sports Club for Deaf Mutes and founded what is now the French Deaf Sports Federation. He believed that deaf athletes should have their own international competition and promoted the idea in his magazine, The Silent Sportsman. He led the deaf sports movement as the president of what is today the International Committee of Sports for the Deaf from its founding in 1924 until 1953.Through his work Rubens-Alcais picked up a nick name, "the deaf Baron de Coubertin," as Baron de Coubertin is the considered the father of the modern Olympic Games (International Committee of Sports for the Deaf 2006). Antoine Dresse (1902-1998) was born into a family of bankers, he was also a runner and a tennis player. Dresse became the founding secretary-general of what is today the International Committee of Sports for the Deaf. He held this post for 43 years, until he retired in 1967. He was a driving force behind deaf sports in Belgium. Dresse was also a talented athlete, he won a bronze medal in the 400 meters at the 1928 competition and medals in tennis in the 1928, 1931, 1935, and 1939 competitions (International Committee of Sports for the Deaf 2006).

     With such levels of dedication from people in the past paving the way for the deaf sports movement it is with no surprise that we see more involvement and acceptance of deaf athletes in sports. This amount of growth is prevalent in the story of Ricky Clark, at Mountain view High School. As a baby Ricky caught Spinal meningitis which ultimately left Ricky deaf. However Ricky is actively playing contact football for his high school team with the help and support of 2 people, the head coach, Sam Perez and teacher Heather Gibbens. Gibbens has volunteered her time to be at every practice and game and serves as Ricky's personal assistant coach as she conveys what is being coached via ASL to Ricky." I think it's good for the deaf kids to be involved in other activities and he should be able to have equal access to any activity he wants related to school, just like any other hearing kid," says Gibbens regarding Ricky playing football (McDougall 2007). Ricky's coach also had positive things to say about Ricky playing football, "He never quits, never gives up," said Perez. "He's never offside because he can't hear the cadence but he's the first one to cross the ball after that quarterback," Ricky's lack of hearing is actually quite helpful as a defensive lineman (McDougall 2007).


International Committee of Sports for the Deaf (2006) Pioneers in Leadership of Deaf Sports. Retrieved 16, April 2008: <>

McDougall, Ed (2007 Sept 26). Sign Language Allows Ricky Clark To Play Football. Retrieved 15, April 2008: < >

USADSF (2006). History. USA Deaf Sports Federation. Retrieved 16, April 2008:



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