VIDEO: Success defined by more than winning for MSD basketball

Sunday, March 14, 2010 | 12:01 a.m. CST; updated 1:56 p.m. CDT, Thursday, October 7, 2010
The 10 players on the Missouri School for the Deaf boys basketball team each have a varying level of hearing loss. Some wear hearing aids. Others can hear well enough to have a conversation. Senior forward Dexter Corley Jr. cannot hear at all. As they play all of the players’ eyes are connected. Their facial expressions are exaggerated and filled with passion as they discuss the game plan.

Below is a transcription of the video.

FULTON — When Bob Washington came to the Missouri School for the Deaf looking for a job 29 years ago, he didn't know what he'd be signing up for. 

"I thought to come here for working, other than a teacher, probably as a custodian," Washington said.

Washington had a degree in physical education and health, and the school principal at the time offered him a substitute teaching job.

"I didn't know any signing, had any signing skills," Washington said.

So Washington had to learn. First in the classroom, then on the court. 

"Very awkward, it's just like 'Uh, am I going to be able to do this?' You know, I was the, like, the sore thumb," Washington said.

A sore thumb in a world where hands replace voices and eyes act as ears. 

A world Washington's coaching counterpart knows first hand. Head coach Kevin Voelker was born deaf.

"I'm a role model to these students. I only ask them what I want of them and nothing that I wouldn't do myself. I think I'm a very patient person and I really enjoy the kids," Voelker signed. 

"I always like picking on him, and he gets that smile and he says, 'Yeah, OK' and always smiles. I kind of copy his behavior and it's so funny," senior guard Donte' Darrington signed. 

Voelker played a year of high school basketball at a hearing school in Wisconsin, before switching to the swim team. Washington was an all-conference college basketball player. But no matter their playing pedigrees, they each bring something unique to coaching.

"We're a good team. Coach Washington helps me, and I help him," Voelker signed.

 "I'm more of the enforcer," Washington says. "Basically, 'Kids you got to play defense.' Kevin is more of the communicator. He's the one there trying to say, 'OK guys we are gonna do this play, we are gonna work on this.'"

Communication on the court is not always easy when players can't hear a sneaker squeak, a whistle blow or play calls from the bench.

"You find ways to get their attention," Washington said.

 Voelker relates basketball to cooking, a comparison that makes sense to a man who has taught culinary arts at MSD for the past five years. 

"Cooking is just like sports," Voelker signed. "It's built on a recipe for success. If you have all the ingredients then you will have a flavorful outcome." 

But if success is defined by wins and losses, the Eagles held a bad taste in their mouth more often than not, winning only three games this season.

 "What measures our season is did our kids go out and give their best, did they have fun, and did they learn something from the game," Washington said. 

 Something they can carry on for the rest of their lives that won't show up in a win column.

 "I believe our kids get out of this, whatever job you do, do your best at it," Washington said. "The thing about it is, you put forth your best effort, and you do the very best you can, you're a winner. You're a winner. And I believe that." 

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