Sunday, September 20, 2009

Arkansas School For The Deaf Breaking Stereotypes

Source Link - Arkansas School For The Deaf Breaking Stereotypes

Football season is in full swing for schools all over Arkansas, but one school is making sure no one is left out. The Leopards took the field Saturday, but they couldn't hear the roar of the crowd. That's because the players are deaf.

These teens play hard, practice hard and they're just normal kids that don't hear. The small football team is pretty tough, no one sits on the side lines, everyone plays offense and defense and they all stay in the game all four quarters.

Is silence the way you pictures a deaf football game? Think again because if you can't hear the cheers, you can feel the roar.

Rick Porter says, "I get asked quite often, how deaf kids play football? Well they're normal kids."

Porter is the Head Arkansas School for the Deaf Coach, not because of a relative, just because it's where his heart is.

He explains, "I took a sign language course in college and fell in love with it. There was an opening here and that was 12-years-ago."

Coach Porter says out on the field everything is just like any game except the team huddles to sign plays so that the competition doesn't see.

Odell Lee says, "I fell like it's a story I can tell when I get older."

Tenth grader Odell Lee is the only vision impaired player and to move faster he's learning to sign.

"Trying to communicate is sometimes difficult. I have a voice coach, but I can understand most the plays. I'm still learning so instead of them voicing and wasting their time we can just go out and play," Lee adds.

During half time the homecoming court is presented and Mallory Burke is crowned.

Sha Stephens is Mallory Burke's mom. Stephens says, "My motivation and inspiration is because of my girls. I tell them dream big don't let anybody tell you that you can't do anything."

Stephens says two-years apart, both of her daughters were diagnosed (deaf) as toddlers, but the challenges never slowed them down. They are cheerleaders, dancers, win beauty pageants and enjoy school.

"It's not a disability, if anything it's an advantage because they both have been go getters," Stephens says.

On and off the field there is pride and determination. Marcus Henderson signs, "When I get on the field it makes me aggressive and fired up, focused on heart."

Henderson plans to go to college and then play professional football. He adds, "I want to be a successful player that's deaf in the NFL."

Coach Porter says kids like Henderson are why he is here to stay, "It takes passion to be successful in anything, deaf or not. If you don't have motivation and passion you're not going to be successful in whatever you do."

Coach Porter says the entire high school is made up of about 50-kids because most deaf kids go to public school. Students also play basketball, volleyball track and soccer.

If you'd like to cheer on the Leopards you can find their schedule by clicking on the link under the picture.

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