For Parkville's Rogers, the sounds of success She refuses to let deafness slow her down

February 21, 1993|By Kevin Eck | Kevin Eck,Contributing Writer

The squeaking noise made by sneakers rubbing against the floor. Referees blowing their whistles to stop play. The roar of the crowd.

Most basketball players take these sounds for granted. But not Parkville senior Kerry Rogers.

Rogers, a four-year member of the Knights girls basketball team, has been deaf since birth.

Her hearing loss has not prevented her from playing a productive role on the team, however.

A 5-foot-8 forward, Rogers is usually Parkville's first player off the bench. She is averaging 3.0 points and 5.5 rebounds, and she scored a season-high 15 against Lansdowne last month.

"She's the type of kid you want in there," Parkville coach Nancy Gross said. "She'll dive after the ball or leap out of bounds to save a ball."

There are several obstacles a hearing-impaired basketball player must overcome, such as knowing when to stop play without hearing a whistle.

Through the use of hearing aids, Rogers is able to pick up various sounds while on the court, but they are often indecipherable.

"With all the noise in the stands, I can't hear the whistle, but I look to the other players and the referees [for the stoppage of play]," Rogers said.

Rogers communicates with her teammates and coaches by reading lips and responding orally, although her speech is somewhat difficult to understand. She learned sign language recently, and is teaching it to some of her teammates.

When she needs direction on the court, Rogers usually looks to senior point guard Kim Merkle.

"Kim tells me what I need to know during the game," she said.

For example, if Gross wants to play a box-and-one, Merkle will relay the message to Rogers by making a square with her fingers.

FTC During timeouts, Rogers positions herself in front of Gross so that she can read her lips.

"I don't even notice if she's looking at me or not anymore," Gross said. "She knows she has to get in position to see what you're saying. She has to do that all day long."

Except for a required speech class, Rogers takes mainstream courses with hearing students.

She is an honor roll student with a 3.0 grade-point average, and is the vice president of the Black and Gold Club, a social group for deaf students at Parkville. Rogers also keeps statistics for the JV team.

During the summer, Rogers -- who also plays volleyball and softball at Parkville -- tried out for the women's basketball team at the United States Deaf Sports Festival in California.

Rogers was one of only three high school students competing -- most were college players. Although she didn't make the team, she got some experience playing against older players.

Last week, Rogers received a letter of acceptance to the National Technical Institute for the Deaf at the Rochester Institute of Technology, where she plans to play basketball and volleyball.

"Kerry hasn't let her hearing loss stand in the way of doing anything," her mother, Carolyn, said.

That's a principle that Kerry's parents instilled in her at an early age.

PD When Kerry was 6, Carolyn and her husband, Eric, sent her to St.

Joseph's Institute for the Deaf in St. Louis, Mo., which prepares deaf children for mainstream schools.

It was there that Kerry learned basketball fundamentals. She was named her team's Most Valuable Player in the seventh grade.

Kerry attended St. Joseph's until the eighth grade, returning home to Baltimore during the summer and on holidays.

"We asked ourselves: 'Where do we want Kerry to be later in life?' " Carolyn said. "We really didn't worry about Kerry. We had to help her to be self-sufficient."

Kerry considered several high schools before deciding on Parkville. A teacher at one prospective school urged the Rogers to send Kerry elsewhere.

"She was very honest," Eric Rogers said. "She said [the students] called kids 'speds' for special education."

L Parkville was an attractive option because of its diversity.

"Parkville mirrors America," he said. "You have whites, blacks, Hispanics, Asians. You have students that are hearing impaired, blind or have other challenging situations. And the kids are accepted."

There were some troubled times during Kerry's early days at Parkville, however.

Gross remembers one instance when Kerry took offense to something she had said.

"I was kidding her about something, and she took what I said the wrong way and she hit me in the face with a basketball at point-blank range," Gross said.

Said Carolyn: "Usually deaf kids take longer to catch up to where other kids are, and a lot of deaf people do not have a sense of humor because of this. She's just begun to develop her sense of humor."

Gross would attest to that. A few weeks ago, she was the victim of a practical joke played on her by Rogers.

"We were quite surprised when we heard about it," Carolyn said of the prank. "It didn't bother me. All I thought was, 'God, she's a regular kid.' She's just like anybody else."

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