Silence on the Court

Have you ever gotten more than you bargained for? Well I don’t like to put myself in situations that make me feel uncomfortable, but sometimes its hard to avoid. Whenever I volunteer to do anything I make sure it something I’ll enjoy, so when I found out that the YMCA was looking for volunteers to coach youth basketball, I jumped right on it.

The YMCA is a nationwide recreational program that allows almost anyone to participate in its year around activities. I had volunteered before at the YMCA but this was my first time volunteering for a daily summer program. On the first day, I got all spiffed up. I put on my brand new black Nike Dunks, a pair of black Michael Jordan basketball shorts, and topped it all of with a neon pink Nike headband. No doubt I was ready to show off my skills.

I strolled into the lobby and greeted a counselor at the front desk. “Good Morning I’m here to coach youth basketball for ages 8-12" I declared as she smiled back at me. “Morning, thank you for joining us today. We’ll be having a brief “meet ‘n greet” in the yoga room before we get started.”

I followed her to the yoga room where I met a group of kids that to my surprise were all seated in a circle not saying a word. The silence was so loud that I began to fidget as I tried desperately to control my insecurities. They all stared at me with their blue, brown, and rare green eyes, yet they maintained their silence. I was relieved at the sight of the counselor finding the center of the circle to address the young crowd. My nerves began to relax themselves, but as I made another observation I realized there was still eerie silence in the room. I panicked and almost broke my neck shifting my head from wall to wall of the room trying to see what was happening, when I noticed everyone was making unclear gestures with their hands.

“Oh crap” I blurted out. I had unknowingly volunteered for a program specifically for the hearing impaired. “Are you okay?” retorted the counselor. “Oh I’m cool” I replied clearing my throat. I didn’t want to tell her that I didn’t know sign-language. I didn’t want to seem like I was the type of person to give up on a group of kids with a disability. Most of all, I didn’t want to ruin those kids’ day.

Finally, we got to the gym and I felt a weight lift off my shoulders because I assumed it wouldn’t be too difficult to lead by example. After five minutes of trying to play silent Simon Says, the counselor caught on to my charade and quickly pulled me aside for a short class of Confessions 101.

“So I noticed you’re not exactly the “signing” type” she proclaimed, glaring at me suspiciously. “Well... no. I’m sorry I thought I signed up for a regular coaching job, but I guess I was too lazy to read the requirements?” I admitted timidly. She chuckled and looked at me with pity. “Well you didn’t have to lie about it. You should have asked me to be your interpreter,” she insisted.

Well I seized the opportunity and for the remainder of the day I was surrounded by silent conversations interrupted only by the shuffles of their feet and the “swish” of the net. The tables had turned, and for once I was the one who couldn’t hear anything in a room full of people. Despite the language barrier, I understood every emotion from their warm smiles and hugs.

They day of quiet noise had ended and after giving each child a high-five on their way out the door all that was left was me and the prolonged silence on the court. Sometimes being outside of your comfort zone is the best way to make others feel comfortable. I’m proud to say that this past summer was the best I’ve had because silence is truly golden.





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