Deaf Sports Essay Sample
The present work investigates the role of sports in lives of Deaf population. It shows that sport acts as a socialization agent providing integration within the Deaf community. It is argued that the Deaf can engage in any sporting discipline, given some organizational adaptations. In the paper, lists of official and unofficial sporting events and organizations that promote deaf sports are listed. The most important and primary organization operating in the field of Deaf sports is the Comité International des Sports des Sourds. The most large-scale events are world and European championships as well as Deaflympics. It is determined that Deaflympics, unlike Paralympics, accept for participation all professional athletes with the only requirement – a hearing loss of at least 55 decibels in the better ear. It is also pointed out in the paper that the peculiarity of Deaf sports is manifested in the fact that all basic organizations and events in the field are run by the deaf leaders.
Keywords: deaf sports, socialization agent, integration, the Comité International des Sports des Sourds, Deaflympics
Sport for the Deaf is an incentive for struggle, self-assertion of personality, and a way of social rehabilitation. Participating in the same sports and playing by the same rules as regular competitors, athletes with hearing impairment achieve the same results and often perform even better than healthy athletes do. This is evidenced by hundreds of examples. Any deaf person or the one with a hearing disorder can engage in deaf sports. Sporting activities are performed at different levels: school or college, amateur or professional.
The paper aims to review basic sports available for the Deaf athletes, providing key similarities and differences. It seems equally important to investigate the place of sport in lives of people with hearing impairment, its role in socialization, interaction, communication, and integration of different communities. The list of official and unofficial sporting events and organizations will be provided to assess the current development of the issue.
Deaf Sports as a Means of Socialization
Sport as a socialization agent has a positive impact on the formation of a physically and spiritually healthy personality. According to researchers, sport should be given more attention in the context of its socializing function. This is especially true for deaf children, who only start their lives in a social environment. However, there are many reasons why children do not pay enough attention to physical activity, among them are: the course load at school and therefore lack of time, low sports motivation, lack of sports groups in the community, and others.
The development of sport and strengthening of its position as an agent of the young generation socialization are among the most important areas of improvement of the society. It is known that physical activity promotes a healthy lifestyle, charges people with energy, and requires refusal from harmful habits (alcohol drinking, smoking, and others). In short, sport disciplines a person, creates willpower, motivation, and dedication. It is a key to a healthy human mental activity, vitality, and zest for life. The process of socialization through sport is different from the process of socialization in the family or school, because it forms a positive focus on maintaining, securing, and transmitting certain social values and attitudes vital for today’s youth culture of self-preservation behavior.
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The integration of the Deaf into hearing communities is seen as one of the main motivations of Deaf sports. It is extremely important in the process of interaction of these two different societies not to take the Deaf as people with disabilities, not to feel sorry for them, and not to offer handouts, but to help and treat them as equals. However, the experience evidences not in favor of full integration, which has not been achieved after years of trying. Full integration is not possible because language is a connecting factor for community and culture. Sign language is a kind of “foreign language” for hearing society, which is understood by a very small percentage of people. The same applies to sports. Members of teams consisting of the hearing and the Deaf face difficulties in interaction, and thus it is hard for them to develop a common strategy for victory.
The problem of socialization can be also seen from another perspective. Sports promote communication within the Deaf community. For non-professional adult athletes, it is a way to relax and unwind after a working day spent in the hearing society. Sports allow them to safely interact with each other, to understand and to be understood. To this end, there are organized activities such as volleyball, basketball, fast-pitch, slow-pitch, etc. (Nomeland & Nomeland, 2011, p. 83-84). The set of activities is affected by the geographical location of the community, available funds and facilities.
It can be concluded that sport as a means of integration of the Deaf and hearing society is not universal. Today, there are a number of problems the solution of which is not yet possible. However, physical activity and teamwork of the Deaf, their socialization and communication increase with the development of sporting activities. Particularly important for the formation of a viable and socially active young generation is such quality as mobility, which is acquired with the help of a sporting activity. This term includes time management and self-discipline, an ability to quickly assess the situation and make an appropriate decision, concentration on the goal, an ability to safely survive a failure and find the way out of difficult situation. These characteristics can help a child in learning and communicating with classmates. For adults, they ensure the development of leadership qualities and professional growth.
Organizational Issues of Deaf Sports
Qualification standards and rules of games usually remain unchanged. However, taking into account the specifics of the deaf people, certain amendments had to be made. They were obviously associated with the introduction of some visual signs instead of acoustic ones (starter’s guns or referee whistles). Ammons (2008) specifies the use of lights for different sports such as basketball, swimming, water polo, and athletics (p. 4).
Despite the fact that speaking about the sport, people usually refer to athletes as active participants of a sporting activity, it is necessary to remember about the audience. Spectators assess the course and outcome of the game and support the athletes. Competitors themselves inspire their audience serving as a spirit-stirring example for new achievements. It is common to see hearing people watching deaf sports because such activities are spectacular for everyone. Infrastructure of such sports includes different visualization means, which are crucial for both deaf athletes and spectators.
Since 1924, a highly organized and isolated system of deaf sports successfully operates in the world under the supervision of the Comité International des Sports des Sourds (CISS). It was deployed outside the Paralympic Movement and was established long before it (Nomeland & Nomeland, 2011, p. 84).
Nowadays, the CISS is recognized by the International Olympic Committee (IOC). The CISS includes national legally independent sports organizations of the Deaf operating in numerous countries, united into four regional confederations (European, Pan-American, African, and Asia-Pacific) (Ammons, 2008, p. 5). For example, the American Athletic Association of the Deaf operates in the USA (Nomeland & Nomeland, 2011, p. 83). Of course, such organizations require the help of volunteers and hearing people to establish appropriate business connections, officiate, and interpret.
Every four years, under the leadership of CISS, a championship of the world takes place. The European Deaf Sports Organization (EDSO) conducts European championships. The program of championships features lawn bowls, golf, and martial arts, which are not included in Deaflympics (Ammons, 2008, p. 5). There, deaf athletes break world records and set personal ones. This evidences their passion and enthusiasm in sports.
Deaflympics are held every four years, embracing summer and winter sports performed by the same rules that were adopted for healthy athletes by the relevant international sports federations (FIFA, FIBA etc.) (Ammons, 2008, p. 6). The history of the games can be traced back to 1924, when they were held in Paris under the name the International Silent Games. Back then, the event included 124 athletes from nine countries (Ammons, 2008, p. 3). The first two Americans took part in the Games in 1935 (Nomeland & Nomeland, 2011, p. 84). Nowadays, the procedure of determination of Deaflympics’ host is similar to Olympics. The Games themselves are organized by the national Deaf Sport organization, after successfully bidding for them (Ammons, 2008, p. 5).
Despite the common perception of Deaflympics as an activity similar to Paralympics, there are some principle differences. Participation of athletes in the Paralympics depends on the degree of their disability. Therefore, the Paralympic competitions are held in special conditions. The participation in Deaflympics is allowed for the athletes with a hearing loss of at least 55 decibels in the better ear (Ammons, 2008, p. 10). In this respect, they compete almost on equal terms with the Olympians.
Like in Olympics, the program of Deaflympics includes a large variety of summer and winter disciplines. They all can be divided into individual and team activities. In summer, individual athletes compete in athletics, badminton, bowling, swimming, freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling, orienteering, table tennis, tennis, shooting, judo, karate, taekwondo, and cycling. The teamwork competition can be seen in water polo, handball, soccer, men’s and women’s basketball, volleyball, and beach volleyball. The set of winter disciplines is smaller but not less spectacular. It includes skiing, hockey, snowboarding, and curling.
It is worth noting that some deaf athletes took part in and even won Olympics, competing on equal terms with hearing rivals. The brightest examples are Americans Jeff Float, who won gold medal in swimming in 1984, and Tamika Catchings, who won gold medal in basketball in 2008. Another prominent athlete is Terrence Parkin from South Africa – a Swimming Silver Medalist of 2000 (Ammons, 2008, p. 7).
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The above discussed allows concluding that sport plays a crucial role in social life of people with hearing impairment. Though it does not ensure total integration of the Deaf into hearing society, it enables to communicate and engage into team-building activities, promoting healthy lifestyle at the same time. To date, deaf sports continue developing, which is evidenced by an ever-increasing attention to Deaf championships and Deaflympics.
There are numerous committees engaged in organization of professional and amateur sports activities for the Deaf operating in different countries. Unlike it is in other organizations for disabled people, the Deaf athletes mainly run their sports organizations themselves. However, association of the Deaf in committees and organizations does not mean their isolation from the hearing. It only allows the Deaf to fully express their social position and strength, revealing their abilities in the field of arts and sports.