Overcoming Hurdles on the Court
Robert Haney, Jr. and Frank Jackson are two of the best men's basketball players in Capital Athletic Conference, but what an ordinary fan might not know is that both have overcome a hurdle that most student-athletes never face.
Haney, who is deaf, and Jackson, who has very limited hearing attend Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C., which is the world's only university where all programs and services are specifically designed to accommodate deaf and hard of hearing students. It was founded in 1864 by an Act of Congress, and its charter was signed by President Abraham Lincoln.
Haney, a guard from Ft. Wayne, Ind., has a long resume of conference awards, including 2003 CAC Rookie of the Year, and 2004 CAC Player of the Year. He earned first-team All-CAC honors in 2005, after leading the league in steals with 2.75 per game, was second in rebounds with 8.2 per game, and fourth in scoring at 16.7 points per game.
After a two year hiatus from school and basketball, Jackson, a forward from Detroit, Mich., garnered second-team All-CAC honors in 2005 after finishing second in the conference in scoring with 18.2 points per game.
Both Haney and Jackson are in agreement that playing at Gallaudet gives them a certain level of comfort that's helped them achieve their individual successes.
"I feel more at home when I'm at Gallaudet University because of the social and personal growth," said Haney. "I have grown from this university in so many ways. I feel that if I went to a hearing college I would not be as happy. I would have the communication barrier and isolation. At Gallaudet, I have the communication ability necessary for my success."
"Originally, I wanted to go to a hearing college to play basketball but nobody wanted me so I decided to try Gallaudet and I've been playing basketball for them since then," said Jackson. "So, I do feel like I do fit in with Gallaudet."
Communication is a key factor when playing a team sport, but Haney, Jackson and their teammates, most of whom are also deaf or hard of hearing, don't necessarily need their voices or ears to get their message across with one another. Their head coach, James DeStefano, who has served in some coaching capacity with the program since 1984, uses sign language to communicate with his players.
"It is not easy to communicate with other teammates on the court," said Haney. "Our form of communication uses various facial expressions or gestures when a player possesses the ball. Otherwise, we use sign language to communicate among one another."
"We play just fine without using our voice or using our ears to listen," said Jackson. "It's all about focus and cooperating as a team to get through the games. I honestly like communicating in sign language and giving out signals and using our eyes better than yelling and speaking because it doesn't take up much energy."
Despite a 6-20 record last season, Haney is positive about his upcoming senior year.
"My individual goal for the upcoming season is to continue being a good team leader," said Haney. "It would be nice if I could earn CAC Player of the Year, too. My goal for the team is to win at least 15 games and get into the NCAA tournament."
Jackson has similar goals for his senior season.
"My goal for this year is to work hard, do well in school and stay healthy," Jackson said. "My team goal is to win, cooperate, be supportive and stay positive throughout the year."
With hard work and positive attitudes, Haney and Jackson should have no problem adding to their individual successes, as well as leading their team to a better year.