[Please note: this article was originally posted in January of 2014 and was mistakenly disabled from posting. I have updated it to the current information available and corrected the glitch that occurred. Please read & share the story of this awesome group]
Down in Austin, Texas there is a great group of individuals who are leading the way in the disc golf world and in the deaf community as a whole. These individuals have learned to combine the confident ideals of who they are with the great passion of a sport they love. Joined by the bonds of life and throwing plastic, they created the Austin Deaf Disc Golf Club (ADDGC).
Start with a simple question…
Honestly, when I stated that there is a deaf disc golf club, what was your first thought? Was it positive? Was it negative? Was it of curiosity? Or did it even reside in your mind? As long as you as you are honest with yourself as you read this article that is all that matters, because I will do my best to help you through each of those questions.
First, let me give you some information about them.
Austin Deaf Disc Golf Club History
“The purpose of the Austin Deaf Disc Golf Club is to promote the development of disc golf and other disc activities through organization, education and competition. Organize and coordinate the efforts of member volunteers to increase the quality and quantity of disc activities in the greater Austin area.” [Source website: addgc.weebly.com]
The club formed in 2008 with 21 members and was originally called the “Lone Star Deaf Disc Golf Association.” Then, shortly thereafter, in 2011, the name changed to the “Austin Deaf Disc Golf Association,” but this was once again fine-tuned in March of 2013 with a finalized name change to what it is known today, the “Austin Deaf Disc Golf Club.”
The name changes may have seemed frequent, but the focus of the club was always a stable pillar for the deaf community and for those who knew of their purpose stated above, it was something that many could always depend on.
Currently, they have 44 members and 5 participants, while also having an active Facebook group of 249 members. They welcome anyone who knows or would want to learn sign language and also those who simply love the challenge of competition. Their love of the sport has also connected them globally to a group of deaf Finnish disc golfers, where language is no barrier, and both groups focus on spreading disc sports throughout the deaf community.
In the field of competition, the ADDGC also quietly claims a very strong presence in the national disc golf scene with the National Deaf Disc Golf Championships. These events are hosted in various states while also containing different state and regional level competitions. Since its inception in 2001, Austin deaf disc golfers have amassed a powerhouse of 28 championship titles in the past 12 years, in various divisions, and they continue to strive ahead to only grow stronger with more future wins.
With its competitive members and talented community, the ADDGC is always looking for great and innovative ways to expand their membership, develop clinics, and publish videos in ASL (American Sign Language) for: parks, schools, and recreational facilities. The ADDGC is also experimenting with educational methods that work best for the deaf community while striving to find the best approach to increase interest in disc sports overall.
Back to the “question”…
So do you remember what you were thinking when I asked for your thoughts about a deaf disc golf club? Yes? No? Indecisive? It’s okay, because no one is pushing you for an answer and honestly if you were playing a round of disc golf with these great folks you would have forgotten that you even had thought about it in the first place.
I will, however, take a moment to dispel any thoughts and clarify on others. The ADDGC players, members, staff, family and others in the deaf community come from neighborhoods like yours and mine. They drive fast motorcycles, drive big Texas sized trucks, and they share the same smiles that we are all born with. There simply is NO DIFFERENCE.
I will also take a moment to admit some personal things about playing with the disc golfers in the deaf community. I will easily admit that I have never played with a more professional, inspirational, humorous, joyous, and technically competitive group of people EVER in my many rounds of disc golf. It is always a great experience whether I play with the adults or the kids. In fact, it is a sad observation that it simply took me this long to get to a place like Austin, with its diverse culture, and have these wonderful opportunities. After all, a friendship with them is something that everyone should carry in their own bag.
Now you know about the ADDGC, what can you do?
First, support them and other deaf groups in your community by joining them in a round of disc golf. Simply, do your best to bridge any communications gap and spread the news about their great efforts to broaden the horizons of disc sports.
Second, spend a moment to learn a simple “thank you” or other common phrases in ASL or even provide a universal “thumbs up” when you see them. It’s amazing what simple gestures and body language a deaf person can understand, after all, no one is expecting you to be an expert and every effort to “talk” builds a relationship with everyone around you.
Third, DO NOT PANIC if you happen to find yourself engaged in conversation with a deaf person and you get “stuck” I learned from my deaf friends that you should keep trying to “talk.” Humorously, they say “lost in translation” moments tend to make people panic and they stop communicating. This happens to them almost daily.
If you find yourself receiving the “silent treatment” do not worry, it’s probably NOT something you said, it could be something you have not completed saying and they are simply trying to understand the conversation. The confusion is occurring on both sides, so smile and remember, do your best to continue to communicate with your hands, face, lips, and body gestures and it can work itself out. If it doesn’t work, there is always our beloved disc golf and we all understand that!
[Special note: I was informed that “lip reading” alone is a guessing game and the world’s best interpreters can only get about 30% of it accurately. So use your other body parts to keep talking]
Lastly, help them enjoy our sport even more. I learned from my deaf friends a shocking deficiency that has been overlooked at a majority of events, having a qualified and dedicated ASL interpreter for the deaf in attendance. The presence of ASL interpreters at major tournaments is greatly needed. This is especially important during players meetings, announcements, discussions with the TD’s, communicating with fellow competitors and the awards banquets.
Overall, my friends report that they have survived with the help from graceful members and players who tried their best to offer crumbs of information, but if a major event has complicated situations it could be easily confusing for them without the interpreter. A comfortable solution would be to have at least one or more deaf competitors joining them at major tournaments to help keep themselves company in a sea of hearing athletes.
Lastly, pen and paper is an accessible solution for deaf players, but it is not always ideal for them to effectively communicate.
Now that you know…
Be involved and get to know the deaf clubs and players in your area. They are tight knit communities that are always open to new friends and the relationship of competition. Simple smiles, gestures, and the willingness to understand them is all that you need to have a great time. So, if you happen to meet some of the deaf players on a course or in your community do not panic or get “lost in translation” as noted above, simply let your actions and gestures do the talking. Remember, what you “do” in disc golf is always more important than what you “say.”
*Update – 08/2014* Look for these sponsored Deaf Players the next time you are on your local course or at a major PDGA Event:
*Please accept my apologies if you are a sponsored deaf player and were not listed with the others.. more are joining your ranks everyday and I do my best to keep up*