Deaf Basketball Tournament Begins in the Valley

By: Dave Byknish Email
By: Dave Byknish Email

STAUNTON -- The Mason Dixon tournament has been played at the Virginia School for the Deaf and Blind, or VSDB, for the past 61 years. In it's current form, nearly 200 deaf players from 11 states are playing to see who is the best.

It started out as an understanding between the specialized schools.

“This is something that would be great for the kids to be able to identify and understand what other schools are like, what other kids are like, and spend a three day weekend together and just experience the whole thing,” said Jim Kiser, the athletic director for VSDB.

Friday afternoon, the teams chose their best players to participate in a free throw contest. The day before, the VSDB team won both their games and advanced up in the bracket.

Coaching a team of deaf players has unique challenges.

“It's a little difficult when it comes to the floor. Sometimes when I need to get the players attention and give them instruction, they can't look at me all the time because they're focused on the game,” said Cliff Watson, the VSDB coach.

Kiser has his own way of coaching the kids.

“You learn to play the game. The thing that I encourage the kids to do is you play until someone stops you. They learn rather quickly, don't trust what you think is going on, wait until someone stops you,” said Kiser.

Even though this tournament is unique, years ago, VDSB teams would play against other teams in the Valley. The hope amongst the teams is that intermingling may someday return to the Mason Dixon.

“The competition is there if the talent's there. I don't see really a difference between the two. We play the game. You play until you hear the whistle, or in this case, referees know, hey we'll stop you, we'll touch your shoulder and that's when it stops.”

VSDB students are expected to play their next game at 8 p.m. Friday night. You can watch a live stream of that game here: 61st Mason Dixon Basketball Tournament


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