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Athlete Blog

Sports create a bridge between the deaf and hearing

November 1, 2016

By RIT/NTID alumna Natalie Snyder, B.S., Biomedical Sciences, 2016

I was asked to write a blog about my experiences of being a deaf athlete. Although I am retired from diving at RIT, that doesn’t mean I’ve moved on from the team. To me, the RIT swimming and diving team was a family who all supported each other and not only had goals for ourselves, but each other. I am a strong believer that people connect with each other when playing or engaging in sports –whether you are a player on a team or a spectator watching an event. Sports are a bridge between the deaf and hearing.

I had a severe shoulder injury that required me to have a surgery to fix. I was out of diving for two years and I was absolutely lost without the sport and the team. Some people may say that it’s a sign to retire early and start something else. Although I started rock climbing and enjoyed that, it did not take the place of diving for me. After I recovered, I came back to the sport and worked harder than ever. I worked to be successful with support from my coaches and teammates and I became a NCAA All-American diver. I treasure my experiences and have shared the story of my journey with others. Coming back to the sport was the best decision for me.

I would advise students to take advantage of the supportive culture and services available at RIT. It makes me sad to see any deaf athletes have a passion for their sport, but quit because they don’t know how to make it work being the only deaf athlete on the team. If I can be honest, it’s all about attitude. If a deaf athlete is determined and driven about his/her sport and wants to contribute and make an impact on the team, then the team will support you and will soar together as a family. Like I said, people connect with sports and especially if you’re a part of a team that is like a family.

So if you’re a deaf athlete and considering playing on an intramural team or a NCAA Division I or III team at RIT, go for it. It’s all about the attitude and showing that you care for the team, give support and it will be returned. I’m in grad school now eight hours away from RIT, studying to be a physical therapist, and I miss the community and the team so much, but I still keep in touch with them because we will always be a team. And I will be back. Take my advice, go out and play, hearing or deaf, with the bridge of your sport and you’ll be surprised. Sports give us a bridge between the deaf and hearing, so sign up, tryout, go for it!