Being deaf is no problem on the court for Thomason

May 03, 2004|JILL ERWIN

Ryan Thomason pulled up to the tennis courts, music blaring from a Land Rover absolutely coated in mud from a good time in the soggy weather. The Boyle County senior climbed out of the vehicle with a smile on his face and a tennis racket in his hand.

Despite being legally deaf, not much slows Thomason down. He has waited patiently for his turn to get on the court for Boyle, and not even a shoulder injury is going to keep him from playing now.

Thomason teams with junior Ryan Dickinson to play doubles for the Rebels. Thomason said the two have formed a real bond over the two years they've been playing together.

"It's not hard to communicate at all," said Thomason. "He knows how to communicate with me. It's not fluent sign (language), but it's a friendship kind of sign. We've known each other since probably eighth grade or freshman year."


"I'm learning sign language," Dickinson said. "As a tennis partner, it's fun because we're communicating by signals. Most people don't have the opportunity to play with a deaf person, and I enjoy that."

Interpreter stands beside the net

Interpreter Becky Slone stands beside the net when the two play. That allows her to relay messages from coach Alice Luscher during breaks, or to help the two communicate between points.

Thomason had been stuck near the bottom of a deep Boyle playing rotation for a couple of years, but Luscher said that changed this year. "I've been telling him for years that his time would come," Luscher said. "It is his time. Here, he's had to face problems with his shoulder and we've been kind of working him back in gradually. Whatever he's felt like he could do, it's kind of been his call."

Neither member of the doubles team is at 100 percent. Thomason is receiving therapy on his right shoulder, and Dickinson is rehabbing a torn anterior cruciate ligament.

Thomason said the shoulder bothered him some last year, but he didn't get any therapy then. Now that he has started getting treatment, he said he can tell a real difference. "When I play for a while, it starts to get sore and bother me," Thomason said. "Therapy helps a lot. It helps me become a better player if my shoulder is feeling better."

Soccer is Thomason's first love, and the sport he hopes to play at Rochester (N.Y) Technical Institute next year. Tennis comes third, behind swimming and diving, but Thomason never considered taking his final semester off.

"I've played tennis for many years, and I'm used to playing tennis right now," Thomason said. "I feel like the coach needs me, and the team. It makes me feel better to think that the team needs me. I enjoy being with the other players. I like this team."

A feeling of leadership as the only senior

Thomason said being Boyle's only senior gives him a feeling of leadership, but he also says he's far from the only leader on the team.

"Leadership shows everybody the attitude, a positive attitude," Thomason said. "I try not to be negative. I like socializing and talking to people."

As his high school career winds down, Thomason finds himself looking back, remembering his past four years. But he's far from complacent.

"I've tried to do my best over the past four years," Thomason said. "I think I've improved. But I continue to work hard."

He's certainly impressed Dickinson.

"I'm usually up front and he'll have this awesome hit and I'm like, 'Man, how does he do that?'" Dickinson said. "He comes up with some neat stuff."

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