Sports Activities and Competitions for Deaf People

Sports in the deaf community serves two purposes. First, it allows for athletic competition and second, it promotes social interaction.

Family with hearing impairments playing football and signing play and pass in American sign language in backyard
Huntstock / Getty Images

Sports has a long history in the deaf community. For example, Gallaudet University, for deaf and hard-of-hearing students, invented the football huddle in 1894. There are many deaf sports organizations and resources for the deaf and hard-of-hearing, including:

  • Deaf sports organizations at multiple levels—international, national, regional, and state-level teams
  • Deaf athletic competitions
  • Deaf sport media sources
  • Books on deaf sports

Deaf Sport Umbrella Organizations

International: International deaf sport umbrella organizations are multi-country collaborations that coordinate athletic competitions. The International Committee of Sports for the Deaf (or the Comité International des Sports des Sourds) is an umbrella organization which organizes the international Deaflympics competition.

The Deaflympics has four regional organizations:

  • European Deaf Sport Association: Membership includes European countries such as Turkey, Italy, Germany, and Greece
  • Pan American Deaf Sports Organization: For deaf athletes in North and South America
  • Confederation of African Deaf Sports: For participating African countries
  • Asia Pacific Deaf Sports Confederation: For participating Asian countries

National Organizations: In order to field teams for international competition, there are national organizations. For example, in the United States, there is the USA Deaf Sports Federation. The USA Deaf Sports Federation facilitates the participation of American teams in international competitions. It also publishes Deaf Sports Review.

A few examples of other national organizations include:

Regional and state level: At the regional level, within the United States, there are several organizations such as the Farwest Athletic Association of the Deaf, and the Midwest Athletic Association of the Deaf. Italy has regional level organizations, and Canada has provincial-level organizations, such as the Ontario Deaf Sports Association.

Team organizations: Team organizations are usually for particular sports and includes the USA Deaf Basketball, the Canadian Deaf Bowling Association, and the Australian Deaf Golf Association.

Sports Media Sources

Deaf sports news can be found in sources such as DeafNation.com, where Deaflympics videos can be viewed.

Deaf Youth Sports

There are even deaf sports competitions for the younger generation. Two of them are the Pan American Games for Deaf Youth and the Deaf Youth Sports Festival. The Pan American Games for Deaf Youth are part of the regional Pan American Deaf Games. The Deaf Youth Sports Festival brings together hundreds of deaf students from many schools and programs to compete.

Deaf Celebrity Athletes

Some deaf athletes become better known than others. Some of the best known deaf athletes include:

  • Curtis Pride - Major League Baseball player
  • Kenny Walker - National Football League player
  • Terence Parkin - Olympic swimmer

Deaf Athletes in History

Sports history includes professional deaf athletes. One of the best-known deaf athletes is record-setter William Ellsworth "Dummy" Hoy. Hoy was an accomplished Major League baseball player from 1888 to 1902 and helped to establish signals for "safe" and "out" calls.

Deaf College Sports

At the National Technical Institute for the Deaf in Rochester, New York, there is a deaf basketball association, and the RIT Center for Intercollegiate Athletics and Recreation/NTID website lists deaf athletes by year, offers movies, and has information on the annual RIT/Gally weekend athletic competitions.

Gallaudet University has many athletic options, including football. In 2005, the Gallaudet football team had its first unbeaten season.

Books About Deaf Sport

Very few books have been published about deaf sports. However, two well-known books are:

Signs for Deaf Sport

The Described and Captioned Media Program is an online educational resource offering over 6,000 videos for are those that are blind, visually impaired, deaf, hard of hearing, or deaf-blind. Their online catalog includes videos about several interesting and note-worthy Olympics and sports stories.

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  1. Gallaudet Athletics. Gallaudet University is home of the huddle. September 19, 2019.

  2. Deaflympics. Logo.

  3. USA Deaf Sports Federation. About USADSF.

  4. The Deaf Youth Sports Festival. What is MDO?

  5. Society for American Baseball Research. Dummy Hoy.

  6. Rochester Institute of Technology. National Technical Institute for the Deaf.