A few weeks ago, in Austin’s Zilker Park, I was wandering around with my camera and saw some people playing frisbee golf. I went over to them to take their picture. After a few seconds of confusion, I realized they were deaf, but they were happy with me photographing their game. I then saw the t-shirt which read “Texas School for the Deaf”.
I did not expect to run into this school again at the Austin Revolution Film Festival (ARFF) last week, but I did. The documentary, 4 Quarters of Silence, explores what at first might seem to be an unlikely activity for students at this school: football. To the contrary, the school has a darn good football team.
Football in Texas
The Texas School for the Deaf (TSD), founded in 1856, is a state school which accepts students from all over Texas. It serves students who are deaf, hard of hearing or who may have multiple disabilities from ages 3 to 22.
High school football is a big deal in the Friday Night Lights state. The TSD athletic program came to the attention of director Cody Broadway because of their great performance. Out of 1,483 high school football teams in Texas, the TSD Rangers are the only team made up of deaf players. They have had excellent seasons the last two years and have made it into the playoffs.
Broadway’s film takes you into the locker room and on to the sidelines with the players and coaches. One of the major elements which the film highlights that has enabled TSD to compete, is a big bass drum. Deaf students playing football have traditionally had to turn their head toward the center to see when the ball is snapped. The Rangers bang on a base drum on the sideline to initiate a play. The vibration is felt and the linemen do not have to take their eyes off the opposition.
Watching with Students
When I watched the film at ARFF, about half of the crowd was made up of students from TSD. I learned how to applaud in sign language. After the film, TSD football coach John Moore, who in 2015 was honored by the National Deaf Interscholastic Athletic Association as Coach of the Year, answered questions from the audience.
He was asked if his team had any advantages or disadvantage on the field?
He replied, “We are even on the field.”
Another audience member inquired about technology that could help his players. Moore commented, “There is none that I know of, but, if you think of something, let us know.”
A question came up about how referees interact with the TSD Rangers.
“The referees vary,” Moore answered. “Some are better than others. I love it when our boys get a late hit penalty and we go ‘Oops, didn’t hear the whistle.’ Also, coaches from other teams can yell at the refs to get their attention. That doesn’t work for us, so we have to run out onto the field, and some of the referees don’t like that.”
An audience member asked if the coach had a message he wanted to send to “hearing teams?”
“Yes,” he answered. “We’re coming for you.”
The trailer for 4 Quarters of Silence is linked below. Beginning October 3, you can watch the film on Amazon Prime. Prime members can watch the film for free. If you’re not a member you can rent or purchase it. To find out about other showings, you can follow the film on Facebook. To learn more about the Texas School for the Deaf, check their website.