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August 3, 2004

Deaf Hoosiers are psyched to resume football

From: Indianapolis Star, IN - Aug 3, 2004

By Pat McKee
August 3, 2004

Lucas Van Dalen used the words "crushed" and "depressed" to describe the mood of the athletes when limited numbers and lack of experience caused officials at the Indiana School for the Deaf to shut down its varsity football team after one game last season.

Monday, Van Dalen, a senior wide receiver and defensive back, and about two dozen other players displayed a renewed spirit as the Deaf Hoosiers began official practice for a new season on a field at 42nd Street and Ralston Avenue.

"Last year we were very depressed, and it was like somebody had died," Van Dalen signed to certified athletic trainer Richie Crock, who served as a communication facilitator. "But now, we're excited and happy the program will continue."

"Once we found out football would be back, we became more upbeat," senior lineman Stanley Mangold added. "After it was closed down, it was hard at times. But we were able to put that aside and not let it carry over to basketball or track."

Jonas Fenicle, a former assistant coach who played at Gallaudet University, is taking over as coach. He plans to take a positive approach and expects to have about 30 players in uniform by the Aug. 20 opener against Heritage Christian.

"I want to encourage and motivate our players," the 39-year-old coach signed to Crock. "We want to use positive reinforcement and have discipline with dignity."

Assistant coach Mike Paulone knows just how difficult rebuilding a program can be. A former Deaf School head coach, he faced a similar task in 1995 after the school did not field a team in 1994.

"When you lose something, it can be hard," Paulone said. "But we have enough numbers now that the players know they will have a team this year. That brings a lot of hope back, and they still have a heart for football."

Last spring's track team provided a boost for football. The team had a successful season, finishing fourth in the national deaf school rankings and prompting Mangold to call it a "launching pad to bring more players out for football."

Still, Fenicle is wary of getting too excited. He said wins and losses are not the primary concern. Instead, he listed team goals as improved understanding of how to play, increased mental toughness and improved agility.

"We want our players to enjoy the experience," Fenicle said.

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