THEY HAD talked
for years about bringing some kind of sports program to their school. But at
the Hawaii Center for the Deaf and the Blind, a school in Honolulu with 28 high
school students, Eric Dela Pena, a teacher's assistant, and Steven Hanai, a
social worker, faced serious challenges. Many of the kids were not athletically
inclined since, as Dela Pena says, "society does not expect much from them
in a physical sense." A few deaf students played football and basketball at
nearby Kalani High, but they needed an interpreter to get play calls, or to
know when a referee blew a whistle. The kids never really felt like they were a
part of the team.
Then last year
the two men struck upon the idea of bowling as a sport that deaf kids might be
able to do as well as anyone else. "Bowling," says Dela Pena,
"seemed to have the least hurdles."
2005, the five members of the newly formed HCDB Dolphins boys' team, competed
in a varsity match--the first varsity event in their school's 82-year history.
Although apprehensive at first about how they would communicate with their
opponents, the deaf students wound up teaching the bowlers from Kailua High a
few basic signs--and then beat them 2--1. "Bowling has been a great source
of school pride," says senior captain Vuong Ho, 17, who bowled a team-high
145 on that afternoon.
Dolphins are not especially good at bowling--the boys' team is 7--20 and the
girls' team is 4--23 this year--but they are not especially bad either, and
that's the point. Although no sports are yet offered to the blind students at
HCDB, Dela Pena and Hanai are thinking of adding wrestling, volleyball and
diving to their athletic program for deaf students next year. "Everyone who
sees these kids compete learns," Hanai said. "They're just like
everybody else. They just can't hear."