Sports Activities and Competitions for Deaf People

Family with hearing impairments playing football and signing play and pass in American sign language in backyard
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Sports in the deaf community serves two purposes. First, there is athletic competition. Second, it promotes social interaction.

Sports has a long history in the deaf community. The football huddle was invented at Gallaudet in 1894. There are:

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

Deaf Sport Umbrella Organizations

International: International organizations are multi-country, and coordinate athletic competitions. Two umbrella organizations are:

  • International Committee of Sports for the Deaf, or Comité International des Sports des Sourds (CISS) - Organizes the international Deaflympics competition. The Deaflympics has four regional organizations:
    • European Deaf Sport Association - Membership includes Turkey, Russia, Germany, Greece, etc. The website has general information, history, and representatives.
    • Pan American Deaf Sports Federation - For deaf athletes in North and South America, and holds the Pan American Deaf Games.
    • Confederation of African Deaf Sports - For African countries.
    • Asia Pacific Deaf Sports Federation - For countries in Asia 

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 fields 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. Australia has state-level organizations, e.g., the Tasmania Deaf Sports Federation. Canada has provincial-level organizations such as the Ontario Deaf Sports Association.

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

Sports Media Sources

Deaf sports news can be found in sources such as, where Deaflympics videos can be viewed. (Deafnation also sponsors competitions such as a Golf Classic.)

Deaf Youth Sports

There are even deaf sports competitions for the younger generation. Two of them are the Panamerican Games for Deaf Youth and Deaf Youth Sports Festival. The Panamerican 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 modern deaf athletes are:

  • Curtis Pride - Professional
  • Kenny Walker - Professional
  • Terrence Parkin - Olympic

Deaf Athletes in History

Sports history includes professional deaf athletes. One of the best-known ones is Dummy Hoy.

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. Two known books are:

  • Deaf Sport: The Impact of Sports Within the Deaf Community - Focuses on the cultural aspect of deaf sports.
  • Winning Sounds Like This: A Season with the Women's Basketball Team at Gallaudet, the World's Only University for the Deaf

Signs for Deaf Sport

The Captioned Media Program has a tape, "Technical Signs: Sports 1," #2920 in their catalog.

Deaf Sport Archival Materials

A search of the Gallaudet University library catalog turned up some interesting items for researchers of deaf sport:

  • Back issues of Deaf Sports Review.
  • Out of print publications like The Sports Parade.
  • Programs for past international competitions.
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