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High school basketball: Officials make all the difference at tournament of schools for the deaf

At the Great Plains Schools for the Deaf Basketball Tournament, the tournament officials are deaf. For players and coaches who sometimes struggle to communicate with referees, that makes a big difference.
by Ryan Aber Published: February 9, 2013

— It's not often that officials are the heroes at a basketball game.

Over the weekend at the Great Plains Schools for the Deaf Basketball Tournament, though, they were plenty appreciated.

All of the officials at the tournament are deaf as well.

“I saw people in the stands talking about how good the refs were,” Oklahoma School for the Deaf student government sponsor Candy Tumblson said. “It's the first time I've seen them talking to the players and explaining their calls.”

For deaf basketball players and coaches, most aspects of the game are the same.

Sometimes, though, communicating with the referees can be plenty frustrating.

“It's hard for us to know what's going on sometimes,” OSD boys coach Chris Reagle said. “I'm a coach, I like to get specifics on calls so I can coach my players, but a lot of times when we have hearing referees, the other teams will get those explanations and we don't.

“This week, the kids understand what's going on and it makes a big difference. It's wonderful that we've got a deaf tournament with deaf referees. It's 100 percent equal.”

The GPSD tournament brought 260 athletes — basketball players and cheerleaders — from around the region to Sulphur for the annual tournament, which wrapped up Saturday night.

All of the athletes are staying in the OSD dorms.

“We're very competitive,” OSD senior Sassy Fields said. “We're going down memory lane when we're in there, saying, ‘I remember playing you all.' This is my last year for the tournament and I want to do my best.”

The OSD girls fell to Minnesota in the semifinals Friday after beating New Mexico in the opening round.

“This is like our state tournament,” OSD girls coach Angie Shelby said. “I've tried to tell the girls to play their best because GPSD is a memory that you'll never have another chance at.”

Guy Kirk is the senior deaf official in the tournament.

Kirk is a veteran NCAA official, calling college games for 27 years and high school games for 40 years.

Continue reading this story on the...

by Ryan Aber
OU Athletics Reporter
Ryan Aber has worked for The Oklahoman since 2006, covering high schools, the Oklahoma City RedHawks, the Oklahoma City Barons and OU football recruiting. An Oklahoma City native, Aber graduated from Northeastern State. Before joining The...
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