Outside the Huddle: Alabama School for the Deaf
The Alabama School for the Deaf won its season opener last Thursday night, 38-6 over Tennessee School for the Deaf. ASD Head Football Coach Paul Kulick is deaf, and he says he knows how to keep his players motivated through his experience.
“I’ve been through that myself,” Kulick said. “My number one passion in life is coaching football.”
The Alabama School for the Deaf is a Class 1A independent school located in Talladega. ASD competes against play public or private schools.
Kulick was born in Ohio, and was unable to compete in team sports until he was 12 years old and his family moved to North Carolina. Kulick began attending the North Carolina School for the Deaf where he was able to play football.
“At that time, I had no real communication access,” Kulick said. “I didn’t have any sign-language skills. I honestly didn’t know how to communicate with my teammates.”
Kulick said that his teammates supported him and gestured to him what to do on the field.
“I think having grown up at the school for the deaf, I understand what they need and what they want,” Kulick said. “I think that I can teach them team work and the responsibility that they need. I can help them develop into young men. I can teach them the value of hard work and motivation…. I can help them know what to expect when we play against hearing teams or deaf teams. I can give them that because I’ve been through that myself.”
Kulick said that the team experiences an obstacle against hearing teams.
“We get on the line and get set, and a deaf player will typically look to see when the snap is going to be, and when the deaf player looks back, he’s got hearing players going past him already,” Kulick said. “We have adopted using a drum to take advantage of our deafness that way the hearing team doesn’t have the advantage and doesn’t come past us at the snap.”
This allows the players to look straight ahead, wait for their man and wait for the drum.
The football huddle was invented by a deaf player at Gallaudet University in 1894. The original purpose of the huddle was to keep the other team from stealing the play call, which was being sent in from the sideline using sign language. The huddle helped prevent the other team from seeing the signs.
ASD’s mascot is the Silent Warriors, and Kulick said that the mascot means that “they are deaf, and they are proud”.
An example of the pride the team feels in it’s Silent Warrior mascot is on display every time the players gather around their coach, when Kulick holds up the sign for ‘Power’.
“(When) I lower that sign, and we yell. We gather that spirit,” Kulick said. “I raise that (sign for) power and then we are quiet. That’s what it means to be a Silent Warrior.”