Deaf swimmer's teammates learn sign language

March 30, 2008 7:23:29 AM PDT
Communications is important for the success of any athletic program. So a high school swim team learned sign language to make one of their swimmers feel part of the group.

Sophomore Will Landgren is not just the only deaf swimmer on Conant High School's varsity team, he is the only deaf student at the high school. His teammates have helped by making communicating easier on dry surfaces and in waters.

Swim season is over. Conant's coach Brian Drenth says they swam well.

"We are in the MSL conference. We finished third right behind Barrington and France High School, so out of 12 teams, we finished third, so which is pretty good," said Drenth.

As a sophomore on the varsity team, 16-year-old Will competes is all swim events.

"His specialty are the sprints, 50 and the 100 freestyle. He swims the breast stroke for us, did very, very well in the breast stroke," Drenth said.

Will started swimming at the age of 9.

"I was just looking at a list of different activities I could do. I can't even remember where that list was, I was looking at different things that you could compete in for the Schaumburg Park District, and I thought I would enjoy swimming and now I'm really a good swimmer," said Will.

His favorite events are? "The 20 free and the 100 free, too," Will said.

When Will was asked to join the varsity team he was nervous.

"Because I didn't know how I was going to communicate with them, the coach introduced them to sign language, and I thought that was a great idea," said Will.

Having Will on the team has been a joy. Co-captain Michael McGuire said they even had sweat shirts made to make him feel welcome.

"It says you may swim like me, but on the back it says you can't sign like me, and it was kind of like a tribute to him, just him going out for the swim team, and you know, being a part of us," McGuire said.

They know how to tease Will in sign language. Chris Emery is the other team captain.

"We say Will's a baby, you know, whenever we have a tough practice," Emery said.

Being able to sign has its advantages.

"We're at a meet, and I'm across the pool, I can sign what I want the guys to do. They all know what I'm signing and they can all end up swimming it, so for it, it's great, you know, I've learned a lot from him, I've learned a lot from interpreters," said Drenth.

The only thing Will misses is the cheering.

"I can't hear their support, so I wish I could hear them when they're cheering for me and encouraging me to go faster," said Will.

This summer, Will is planning to try out for the deaf Olympics, which takes place next summer in Taiwan.


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