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October 25, 2002

Ref doesn't need to hear

From: The Arizona Republic, Az
Oct 25, 2002

Deaf man tries for certification

By David Vest

Bob Duresky is a recreational athlete, loves the atmosphere surrounding high school sports and is an expert at American Sign Language. The way he figures it, that's all he needs to be a good football referee.

Duresky, who has been deaf since infancy, is trying to become a certified high school football official for Arizona, his home since April.

"It is not difficult," Duresky said via e-mail, "If anyone can do it, then I can do it."

Duresky, who lives in Phoenix and works for the Maricopa County Assessors' Office, began his quest for certification Sept. 5. Like all candidates, the Arizona Interscholastic Association has assigned him a mentor to evaluate his performance after each freshman or junior varsity game that both officiate.

"He's doing well," said Rob Stephens, Duresky's mentor. "He's very excited about it, and he really wants to learn."

Duresky, a former high school wrestler, is training as a linesman and hopes to be working varsity games within four years. He's attempting to become a basketball official, too.

"I do make mistakes," Duresky said. "Rob Stephens has been helping me with my mistakes. . . . I am getting better at every game."

Stephens said one aspect they've addressed is getting Duresky to blow his whistle louder. It's a logical problem considering, "I cannot hear the other referee's whistle (for comparison), because it is a very high-frequency sound," Duresky said. "I only can hear low-frequency sound, like a drum beating and an airplane landing or taking off."

Duresky first envisioned becoming an official a few years ago while volunteering at the concession stand during the football games played at his daughter's high school in Columbus, Ohio. While watching her perform in the marching band, he would also get involved in the game.

"Over the years, I noticed that the referees do not talk much during the games (and) they use hand signals to communicate," he said. "I use ASL to communicate with the deaf community. The signs have the same concept as to communicate without talking. So I felt that if I can use the sports signs, then I can become a referee."

Stephens, a 21-year veteran of Arizona high school officiating, said he's confident Duresky will master the 30 or so hand signals the officials use during a football game and will become certified for varsity. He joked that Duresky may even have an advantage over hearing candidates in that he has the option of not listening to coaches' complaints over calls by turning off his hearing aids.

Duresky agreed but said that's a part of the job he's willing to embrace.

"I can hear these coaches yelling and screaming for two solid hours with my hearing aids on," he said. "I can turn the hearing aids off, but I want to get used to the screaming and yelling."

Copyright 2002, The Arizona Republic.