Gallaudet: Home to Innovation | God's World News

Gallaudet: Home to Innovation

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    Gallaudet head coach Chuck Goldstein, center, uses ASL to communicate with players during an NCAA college football game on October 7, 2023, in Washington, D.C. (AP/Stephanie Scarbrough)
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    Gallaudet offensive lineman Agustin Bojorquez, center, beats a drum to signal a new period during football practice on October 10, 2023. Deaf and hard-of-hearing players feel the vibrations. (AP/Stephanie Scarbrough)
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    Gallaudet developed football helmets that help deaf and hard-of-hearing players see play calls on a tiny screen. (AP/Stephanie Scarbrough)
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    Gallaudet football assistant coach Bob Miller, left, talks with players using ASL during football practice. (AP/Stephanie Scarbrough)
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    Gallaudet quarterback Brandon Washington runs toward teammates after scoring a touchdown. He wears the new, high-tech football helmet during a college football game on October 7, 2023. (AP/Stephanie Scarbrough)
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Coach Chuck Goldstein hasn’t used a whistle in more than a decade. Instead, he communicates mostly with American Sign Language (ASL). Of the challenges in coaching a team of deaf and hard-of-hearing players, Goldstein declares, “We overcome them.” Mostly, the Gallaudet University head coach says, “We play football.”

Gallaudet has been playing football—and innovating—since 1883. Just over a decade after the team’s formation, a Bison quarterback suggested crowding together to prevent other Deaf teams from stealing signals. The huddle was born. In 1970, the school replaced whistles with a drum. Genius! Deaf players could feel the vibrations.

Gallaudet home football games are unique. The national anthem is performed in ASL—no audible “The Star-Spangled Banner.” There’s no public address announcer. Some fans cheer; others applaud in ASL.

“We view ourselves as normal people who can do everything except hear,” says Shelby Bean, a former player turned assistant coach.

His attitude reflects Philippians 2:4: looking out for others’ welfare, not just one’s own. “We’ve kind of adapted how we coach football, how we play football,” Bean says.

Upon arriving at Gallaudet as an assistant in 2009, Goldstein learned ASL. He started making adjustments. At practice, he wanted players to see him signing, so he moved where the sunlight shone into his eyes—not in the eyes of the players.

Today, players and coaches continue the Gallaudet tradition of innovation.

Most recently, the school developed a helmet in cooperation with AT&T. Inside the helmet, a tiny screen above the quarterback’s right eye displays play calls.

“With the helmet, you waste less time trying to seek information out,” offensive lineman John Scarborough says in ASL through an interpreter. “We’re basically able to play on par when it comes to the pace of other teams.”

The NCAA granted Gallaudet a one-time-only waiver for the high-tech helmet.

Gallaudet won the helmet test game. The win snapped a four-game losing streak for the first victory of the season. Wearing the new helmet, quarterback Brandon Washington scored a 63-yard touchdown on his first run of the game.

Coach Goldstein says, “We’re still going to play football with or without [the helmet, which] would help definitely level the playing field.” He hopes someday to get approval for all players.

Whatever happens, Washington was thrilled to get Gallaudet back in the win column.

“It makes me want to cry a little bit because knowing we are a Deaf community, people think that we can’t play sports or whatever,” he said after the game. “And we proved them wrong.”

Just as they have for 140 years.

Why? Recognizing the contributions of innovators—especially those who overcome challenges—inspires others to work well.

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