IM this article to a friend!

February 3, 2003

Deaf SoCal cheerleading squad to compete in Hawaii

From: Sarasota Herald-Tribune, FL - 03 Feb 2003

The Associated Press

The ten cheerleaders jump, flip and hoist each other into the air like any other pep squad competing in this year's Aloha International Spirit Championships except for one key difference. This team is deaf.

When they travel to Hawaii later this month, the squad from the California School for the Deaf, Riverside, will be the first such group to ever compete in an international competition, school officials said.

"It shows that athletic opportunities cross all boundaries," said Tammy Van Fleet, director of the Golden State Spirit Association. "They haven't let their disability prevent them from competing."

Some of the cheerleaders use hearing aids, while the others depend on their teammates to help them stay on beat.

"I can't hear one note," junior Daniel Hernandez, 17, said through an interpreter. "You have to count in your mind. We depend on each other."

The major difference between a deaf and a hearing pep squad is the way they communicate.

The deaf school's team uses finger counts instead of a verbal countdown to signal the start of a routine. At competitions, coach Stacy Hausman stands in front of the team to signal the start of the music.

Hausman, who began coaching the squad seven years ago, said past teams faced several obstacles, including the lack of interpreters at competitions and being told they couldn't use signals and counts instead of music.

Hausman is now allowed to sit between the judges' table and the stage to give the cheerleaders their cues. She also chants some of the cheers to assist those who can speak.

"I think the hearing think that the deaf can't do it, and then they are shocked to see that we can do it," said sophomore Cesar Ayala, 16.

Information from: The Press-Enterprise, Riverside

© Sarasota Herald-Tribune. All rights reserved.