D.C. Deaf Men’s Rugby Club Players Are Pioneers in the Sport

D.C. Deaf Men’s Rugby Club Players Are Pioneers in the Sport

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Roberto Santaigo: Mark Burke and I coach the Model Secondary School for the Deaf, deaf high school team. And, Mark, last summer decided that he wanted to start a deaf men’s team. It’s something we’d talked about a little bit, and he decided “I’m doing it.” I’d say it’s more a learning curve for us coaches figuring our how to make rugby deaf friendly. Most of the communication, when people talk about communication issues, is during the match. Telling a guy, because you can only pass backwards, so telling guy in front of you, “I’m with you! I’m here! I’m with you!” becomes a little harder. It really becomes more incumbent upon the guy with the ball to look back. And see where people are And our guys will run, and they’ll wave, and they’ll “WHOOO!” for a guy who has a little hearing, so that’s been interesting. There’s only been rugby in the deaf community for five years, in modern times. So these guys have had to come up with the sign language for the game. So we really look to the deaf high school students, and how they talk about rugby. And we borrow that in our coaching, so we use signs like “RUCK,” which is a new sign. And “SCRUM” and “MAUL” and “LINE-OUT.” And we’ll use these signs, that really, the deaf high school kids came up with, that we then apply to the deaf men’s team, and now we’re teaching them, “OK, you gotta ruck. You gotta do this…” and we’re using that sign language. So it’s been really interesting in terms of how to come up with the specific vocabulary. Mark Burke: I’m proud of where we are today with All Deaf rugby. with the club. I mean, it’s funny because this isn’t really something we planned. This isn’t something we planned ahead for. We just decided to do it, spur of the moment. And here we are. And the impact it’s had across the country, I mean, the nation is following us. The world is following us. My experience in rugby has been incredibly positive. And I want other deaf people to have that experience, to understand what it is that I’ve seen. I want to see that with people in the community. When I first started the high school team here, the guys really became hooked on the game. They wanted to continue to play as adults in the deaf community. Many of them told me they wanted to play, but they didn’t have access to a team. They didn’t feel like they had access to a place to play. So we really would like this to be the start. We want to see more deaf teams around the country. There’s a deaf rugby world championship in the UK in 2015, and that’s a goal. Anton Fletcher: I want the deaf team to get recognized all over the world. All over America. I want people to notice that deaf people can play rugby, and we can keep building. And that there’s opportunities for me, and there’s opportunities for other people as well.

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