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July 17, 2004

Game doesn't stop for the deaf

From: Indianapolis Star, IN - Jul 17, 2004

The squeaking of shoes on the gym floor, the thwack of a volleyball hitting the net, the clapping of encouragement after a successful play.

All were familiar sounds to this former player as I walked into the J.L. Caskey Activity Building at the Indiana School for the Deaf to check out a volleyball camp.

It took a few seconds after sitting down to watch a game of 4-on-4 that I realized an absence of other sounds such as a whistle and the chatter of campers calling out plays or cheering a good one.

But that was the only difference between B & B's High Potential Deaf Volleyball Camp and any other camp I had attended in the past. The 20 campers from seven states are among the best deaf high school players in the nation.

Campers included Carmel's Amanda Krieger, 16, a slender blonde who will be a junior. The outside hitter, who has been playing volleyball since the fifth grade, said the camp was a good experience.

"It's very challenging, and of course, many frustrations come with it, but it makes me improve my individual skills," signed Krieger, a starter on last season's School for the Deaf's 26-9 team.

Other Indiana players were Justine Jeter and Micaela Paulone, of Fishers, Nukeitra Hayes, of Anderson, and Chelsea Nemer, of Evansville.

The co-directors of the camp are Brian Bippus, the current Indiana Deaf coach who formerly coached at Model Secondary School for the Deaf in Washington, D.C., and Lynn Ray Boren, Bippus' former assistant at Model and now Model's head coach. The two realized there was a need for such as camp after sending their own players to similar camps.

Registration for the High Potential camp, which was started five years ago, is limited to players who will be starters this fall for their varsity teams and are considering competing in college.

"The first year we had 16 campers, and after that about 20 a year, and several girls return for a second time," signed Bippus, who also is deaf. "We try to recruit sophomores and juniors."

Most camp counselors are members of the U.S. Deaflympic team such as Stacy Nowak, 24, who helped the U.S. to a silver medal in Rome in 2001 and will be going for the gold with her team this January in Melbourne, Australia. Nowak hoped to teach the campers to "play the game of volleyball with passion."

"It's been a wonderful experience working with the girls," she signed. "It's an honor to pass down knowledge I learned in the past to these girls."

A middle blocker at 5-10, the former Gallaudet University standout and the other Deaflympic players also scrimmaged the campers. Area high school teams such as defending Class 4A state champion Cathedral were brought in. Longtime Irish coach Jean Kesterson said that for her players, volleyball is volleyball.

"They really admire how they can play without the ability to verbally communicate. They were impressed at their level of play."

Throughout the week, campers also scrimmaged teams from Bishop Chatard, Knightstown and Greencastle. They videotape all scrimmages and hold viewing sessions every nights.

"It gives them an opportunity to understand what it takes to be successful, and hopefully they can bring it back to their teams as well," Boren signed. "We don't care how bad they might lose, it's good to see a level like that. It's good to show that deaf girls can play volleyball."

Alina Auv, 17, Aloha, Ore., was one camper who attends a mainstream school, and has experience playing high school and club ball with hearing players. Auv, who signed that she can function pretty well with hearing aids, started playing volleyball in the third grade and became a starter her sophomore year at Hillsboro (Ore.) High School. The 5-7 outside hitter/defensive specialist impressed the other campers with her ability.

She emphasized that there is a big difference between playing with deaf and hearing players, especially with communication.

"On a hearing team, you can hear the girls (calling) whose ball it is," signed Auv, who was one of a handful of high schoolers to try out for the Deaflympic team. "When I got here, I had a hard time adjusting to whose ball it is and had to use my eyes more."

Past campers have gone on to play at Gallaudet or Rochester Institute of Technology, where Auv hopes to play, in addition to other universities or community colleges. The directors hope their camp, with a motto of "Believe and Achieve," opens the door for elite deaf camps in basketball, football and other sports.

For someone as myself who had not experienced deaf culture, it was an eye-opening experience.

The scene was what I remembered from my time on the court, but in the end the game is the same.

Special thanks goes to Richie Crock, 28, a full-time trainer at Indiana Deaf going into his sixth year. The 1994 Bishop Chatard grad served as an interpreter throughout my visit to camp.

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