By LUKE CURTIS
On January 16th, 2020, University’s Deaf and Hard of Hearing football team won its first league championship, and received a television presentation by Fox 11 to receive specially tailored team gear from the Helpful Honda people.
It may seem like a nice fairytale ending for the football team, but the events leading to this important victory are of far greater significance than they may seem at face value.
A group of individuals who bear the symbol of extraordinary by hurdling over communication barriers, the team showed their fire to compete by realizing their dream, and clamoring for an opportunity to prove it.
“From my experience as the DHH principal for 4 years, students have been begging to do something DHH specific. They love playing football, so it was one of the opportunities that came up, we could join this flag football league. While all DHH students can join any sport, there was nothing DHH specific before this chance. The beauty of this program fills that need,” DHH principal David Longo said.
Throughout their season, the team lacked the necessary gear to effectively play flag football. However, they rose to the occasion and continued to compete in the face of unmet needs.
“They practice everyday at lunch. They gave up time and the level of commitment to make sure they could show the rest of the community that despite having a hearing loss, they can do what everyone else can do, they can win,” Longo said.
With the support of experienced and caring coaches in head coach Brian Tingley, and assistant coaches Jonathan Schwan and Maren Mastin, the team was able to display their talent and competitiveness on the field. Most importantly, they were able to expand their horizons and play positions they never had access to previously.
“In regular team sports, they don’t get the opportunity to play specific positions. They get streamlined into certain positions, with most kids playing offensive or defensive line. They don’t get to play quarterback. They have the talent to do it, thus this was a unique opportunity” Longo said.
With this unique opportunity, DHH hopes to expand into other areas of athletics to create a more competitive atmosphere for UNI DHH students. Additionally, the development of future athletic events enables UNI DHH to demonstrate to other DHH students of the special place UNI DHH has within the community as a school who can compete on all levels, both academically and athletically.
“We’re a regional program. California has two state schools, one in Fremont, the other in Riverside. They have full athletic programs. We have access to such programs as well, but it’s not DHH specific. The knock on our program is that we can’t compete at that level, where there are hundreds of opportunities for DHH students to get involved in. This championship win puts us on the map in a variety of different ways. I’m going to start planning games in the future against the Riversides of the world. It’s a great stepping stone. They can compete, not just academically, but athletically. I’m looking forward to where we’re going,” Longo said
Additionally, with the presentation of Helpful Honda’s specially tailored gear to the team, the public support by the company and the recognition by Fox 11 Los Angeles showed the appreciation of teamwork and dedication.
“The fact that they came and supported the program, it gave a lot of exposure to how hard they work and their effort into the season,” Longo said.
Ultimately, with the closure of the season ending with a championship, the future of UNI DHH is bright, with the message of competitive spirit reigning free in all individuals, letting everyone overcome their barriers.
“They weren’t just playing for the trophy, they were playing to prove a lot more. They were proving that a deaf team can do everything hearing kids their age can do. That game was worth a lot more than just the trophy, they’re proud of that too, but it’s nice to make that type of statement as well. There’s something to be said about the comradery in sports, with your classmates, to bond and [I don’t mean for this to sound bad] for them to beat hearing teams too.”