Reporting John Lauritsen
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Communication is crucial in all sports, especially basketball. So imagine not being able to talk to your coach or teammates during the game.
It’s a reality for Minnesota State Academy for the Deaf’s girls basketball team.
They may have the quietest basketball practice in the state of Minnesota but, despite the almost complete silence coming from the coach and players, there is still plenty of communication taking place.
“We keep it very simple on the floor,” said Coach Russell Pudas.
Like most of the girls he coaches, Pudas was born deaf. He started as an assistant coach at the Academy, and then became head coach. This year, he has led the Trojans to a 10-1 record.
Some coaches complain that the referees don’t hear them call time-outs. In Russell’s case, it’s legit.
“They often don’t know what I’m talking about. By the time they do, it’s 20 seconds of lost time. Then they see we need a timeout,” said Pudas.
But there is a plus side, like simply being able to ignore the other team.
“The advantage is we can play our game and don’t need to worry about what they are going to do,” said senior guard Elli Halverson.
On defense, the girls are pretty much left to defend on their own, with the occasional time-out to get things in order. But when they are on offense, that’s when the real communication takes place. As the offense gets set, Pudas waves to get their attention.
“Then they can look and see me and I give them directions,” said Pudas.
Those directions come from signing. It’s sped-up during the game so the message is quick and clear. And all 12 girls that make up the varsity know their role on the team.
“We show we can play. We have heart and skills. We are not an easy team to beat,” said Halverson.
“I think some of the perceptions are the deaf team will be easy. But we play hard. We play the same as a hearing school would,” said sophomore forward Tabitha Anderson.
They use an interpreter for home games, more for the comfort of the other team.
Their goal is to win the Great Plains Schools for the Deaf tournament, which they are hosting in February. They will play other deaf schools from across the Midwest in that tournament.
The team says that even if their hearing has failed them, they won’t fail each other.