July 30, 2010 > Local coach leads women to victory at World Championship Game
Local coach leads women to victory at World Championship Game
By Alyson Whitaker
Photos By courtesy of USA Deaf Basketball
Lublin, Poland, was the host city for the 2010 Deaf Basketball World Championships, and the US Under-21 women's team was at the top of their game. Led by coach Deb Ayres of the California School for the Deaf in Fremont, the women played against eight of the top teams in the world before emerging victorious in the finals on July 3.
In preparation for the World Championships, Ayres developed a list of the top 20 deaf women basketball players in the country. She contacted the women and their coaches, and the list was whittled down to the 12 players who possessed the skills and determination, as well as the ability to raise the necessary money to travel to Poland for the championship games. (A lack of funding prohibited official tryouts or team practices before traveling to Poland, leaving the players only two days of practices before the games began.)
Four of the teammates are currently enrolled at Gallaudet University - the nation's only deaf university. Four more just completed high school and will be attending Gallaudet in the fall. The remaining players were comprised of high school students from other schools around the country, including point guard Alexandria Brinkley of CSD.
The US team squared off against Lithuania in the finals. Down 11-2 early on in the game, Ayres didn't want the team to have come all that way and walk away without a win in the finals. With a few adjustments, and an added dose of determination, the women were able to come back with a win. In the final moments of the game, Britny Latham scored a remarkable five, 3-point shots to defeat Lithuania with a final score of 67-44.
Although some of the players have limited hearing and utilize a hearing aid for everyday life, none were allowed on the court. Players had to rely solely on sign language and visual contact for communication between teammates and coaches.
The 14-day oversees trip created memories that will last a lifetime for the 12 players, who formed fast friendships both on and off the court. One particularly memorable and emotional experience was a visit to a WWII Nazi concentration camp. Seeing the site of so much tragedy and sadness gave the women a renewed gratitude for the freedoms possessed in the United States.
Ayres' inspiring and motivational coaching united the team and helped them work together for the collective goal of winning the title of World Champions.
Just a few short days after returning home from Poland, she was already back at work with her team of girls on the CSD basketball team. Traveling to Lake Tahoe for another tournament, Ayres feels honored to be able to work with young people through basketball.
"I've been able to travel to many different countries and see the world through my involvement with basketball," said Ayres. "It is inspiring to learn more about different cultures and different people, and to help these young women achieve such greatness."