There’s something about sports that tends to bring people together. No matter what walk of life a person comes from, the excitement of playing in a game, or even just watching one, is enough to overwhelm the senses.
All eyes are on the athletes as they scurry over the playing area. Refreshing water hydrates parched throats. The scent of determination and perseverance is carried through the air on droplets of sweat. Players of opposing teams bump up against one another in the quest to score points. And of course there’s the constant cheering from the spectators and shouts from team members as they try to communicate.
It’s interesting to think about how the game is experienced might be changed by taking away one of these elements. For Bree Sproule, a grade 12 volleyball player at George Elliot Secondary, four senses is what she has to work with and, although she is deaf, she excels at her sport.
After testing her athletic prowess in a number of different sports, Sproule finally decided several years ago to focus on volleyball.
“My mom put me in a whole bunch of different sports when I was younger,” says Sproule, speaking with her hands. “In grade six or seven an older friend of mine said I should try out for the national deaf volleyball team.”
Her tryout landed her a spot on the team at just 14 years old, making her the youngest person to ever have played at the national level. With players spread out all across the country it is difficult for the team to play and practice together on a regular schedule but Sproule says they do manage to get together three or four times a year.
One of those times will be early next month when the team travels to Washington DC to take part in the Friendship Games along with teams from the Ukraine, Japan and the United States. Sproule is looking forward to Washington as a chance to play with her teammates one more time before heading to the Pan Am Games for the Deaf in Brazil this coming November.
When she’s not playing with the national team, Sproule keeps her skills on the court sharp by playing on hearing teams at her high school and with the Kelowna Volleyball Club.
Sproule says she enjoys the chance to play with deaf teams because everyone readily accepts one another’s athletic ability.
“It’s frustrating sometimes playing on hearing teams because nobody knows signs so communication is hard. When some people find out that I can’t hear they think ‘well how can she be any good?’” says Sproule.
When Spoule finishes high school next year, she plans to carry on with her post-secondary education at Gallaudet University an all-deaf school in Washington DC. The coach of the university’s volleyball team is already familiar with Sproule. After attending an invitation only volleyball camp hosted by Gallaudet’s coach, he was impressed enough to guarantee Sproule a place on the team when she heads south of the border.
Like many other top caliber athletic pursuits there is little financial assistance available to players to help offset travel costs. Bree works on the family farm to save money for her volleyball trips. She’s also grateful to individuals in the community who have stood behind her, offering their financial support. Anyone interested in sponsoring Bree can contact her parents Neil and Jackie at 250-548-3387.