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March 4, 2004

Having a Ball

From: Victorville Daily Press - Victorville,CA,USA - Mar 4, 2004

Wrightwood's Stacy Segeberg, volleyball champ, to play in the 2005 Deaflympics


Unbeknownst to her parents, Stacy Segeberg, now 20, was born with enlarged auditory canals.

For a year and a half, she could hear perfectly well.

But when she was 17 months old, Stacy tumbled out of bed. The fall sent the fluid slamming against the bottom of her auditory canals, collapsing them both.

Since then she has been deaf.

At first, because Stacy was a baby, she and her mother, Marilyn, found other ways to communicate.

"I was probably compensating," Marilyn Segeberg says. "And I must have been in denial.

"But her father worked out of town. When he came home on the weekend, Ed guessed that Stacy was deaf."

Stacy was 3 when she and her parents learned American Sign Language (ASL).

"It's easy to teach a deaf child words like 'milk' or 'cookie,' " Marilyn says. "But it is much harder to teach the signs for concepts like 'love.' "

Added to this is the fact that ASL is shorthand.

As Marilyn explains, if one signed every single word — including articles like "the" and "an" — communicating would take forever.

The downside is that learning to read conventional English grammar can pose an added challenge to children who learned ASL first.

"Deaf" and "hard-of-hearing" are relative terms not always used the same way by all people.

Stacy, who defines herself as deaf, says, "I can't hear a thing. But that doesn't bother me."

And why should it? After all, she can feel music with her body, and she is a champion volleyball player.

Stacy lives in Wrightwood with her father, an aircraft mechanic for Lockheed; her mother, a teacher of alternative education in Lake Los Angeles; and their yellow Labrador, Clancy, 14 weeks.

At 5 feet 11 inches tall, Stacy Segeberg is a runt compared with her sister, Danice, 25 (6 feet, 3 inches), and their brother, Bo, 23 (6 feet, 10 inches).

But as a senior at Serrano High School (Class of 2001), Stacy, who started playing volleyball as an eighth-grader, was named to the first team all-Mojave River League.

Asked how she communicates with hearing teammates, she says, "I tell the setter ahead of time how I play and how I want to be given the ball."

Stacy plays either outside hitter or middle.

It's as an outside hitter that she'll represent the United States in the 20th Summer Deaflympics.

More than 3,500 deaf and hard-of-hearing athletes from 83 countries are planning to compete in 15 individual and team-sporting events in Melbourne, Australia.

The games are scheduled for Jan. 5-16, 2005, midsummer in the Southern Hemisphere.

According to Marilyn Segeberg, to take part in the Deaflympics an athlete must have at least 55 decibels of hearing loss in their better ear.

Otherwise, the only difference between the Olympics and the Deaflympics is the substitution of visual cues for auditory cues.

In track and field, for example, a red light signals "Get ready," a yellow light "Steady" and a green light "Go!"

After graduating from Serrano, Stacy attended Bakersfield Community College from 2001-2003. Both years she was named All League.

She is now a junior at Riverside Community College.

As an athlete may compete only two years at the junior-college level, Stacy doesn't play for Riverside. But this fall she'll transfer to Gallaudet University, founded by Congress in 1864 to serve deaf and hard-of-hearing students.

And then she may play college volleyball again.

A liberal arts major, she hopes to teach deaf children up to the second grade.

Formerly the volleyball coach for the California School for the Deaf, Riverside, Stacy now performs many jobs for CSDR's athletics department.

Of the 25 girls who tried out for the U.S. Deaflympics volleyball team, Stacy was one of 12 chosen.

Their fiercest competition will probably be from Japan, which won in the 2001 Deaflympics held in Rome.

Stacy will fly to Australia on Christmas Day — a 22-hour flight.

But before then she must raise $3,500.

Because the Deaflympics don't enjoy the same corporate support given to the International Olympics, each deaf or hear-impaired athlete is required to donate $5,000 (of this, $1,500 was due in December 2003).

She'll also keep practicing with the La Sierra University volleyball team, Monday through Friday, and take part in tournaments all across the country: for example, this weekend in Washington, D.C.

When Marilyn remarks that, thanks to the Deaflympics, her daughter has become quite the frequent flier, Stacy says:

"I've yet to meet a stewardess or steward who could sign, but the airlines know that I am deaf, so I get to board the plane first."

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