Noise billows out from the gym doors at Del Crest Middle School on a Monday afternoon. The eighth grade girls’ basketball team is hosting Kerr Middle School in a rivalry game. Basketball shoes squeak as the players cut and sprint up and down the floor. A leather ball pounds on the floor like a heartbeat. And the crowd of students, teachers and parents erupt every time the ball sinks through the nylon net.
Bre’Anna McCoy has never heard any of the sounds. The Kerr eighth-grader was born deaf – just like her brothers and parents. Thirteen generations of her family have also had hearing loss.
But that doesn’t keep McCoy from playing the game she loves.
In the game against Del Crest, she made a key free throw late in the game and celebrated with her teammates after a thrilling win.
McCoy communicates with her coach and teammates through an interpreter. The team has also learned basic sign language to signal plays and encourage McCoy on the floor. Any time she scores or makes a big play, her teammates wave their hands in a sign of applause.
Basketball has been a big part of McCoy’s life since she was a young girl. Her older brothers taught her the game and she was hooked.
But this is her first year to play at traditional school. She transferred to the Kerr last spring, after spending nearly her whole life at the Oklahoma School for the Deaf in Sulphur. Kerr provides a full-timer interpreter for Bre’Anna during the school day and practices and games.
“I wanted to experience life around hearing people,” said McCoy, speaking through an interpreter.
McCoy snuck under the radar at the end of last school year. When basketball season rolled around this fall, she finally felt at home.
“At first she was quiet and to herself and can tell why, but when she started dribbling a ball became one of everyone else,” said principal Andy Collier. “It just shows you how sports can influence kids’ lives. It’s a true character builder and teaches them to fight through adversity.”
On the court, McCoy has learned to watch her coach and interpreter who sign plays from the bench. Before every game, the coach notifies the officials about Bre’Anna’s hearing impairment.
Bre’Anna’s mother Kimerly noticed the change in her daughter’s spirit.
“Last year asked if she liked it, she said yeah. But now she sees friendly faces, she’s interested in school and she tells me she really likes it,” Kimerly said speaking through an interpreter.
McCoy is also excelling in the classroom. She has seen improvement in her test scores for math, science, history and reading and boasts a 3.57 grade point average.
“She’s making A’s in school and I’m shocked at how good grades are,” Kimerly said.
Collier said Bre’Anna has also helped other students learn how to communicate. Her teammates have not only learned sign language to communicate on the court but have also developed a strong bond off the court.
“I think this has been a real eye opener for a lot of people,” he said. “The girls do all they can to communicate and they want her (Bre’Anna) to fit in.”
Terri Willey, who coaches the basketball team, said that commitment is paying off.
“I think this is the closest group of girls that I’ve ever had and I think Bre’Anna has really brought them together,” Willey said.
Lauryn Lee, who plays on the basketball team, echoed her coach’s sentiment.
“Sometimes it’s not that hard to communicate because she (Bre’Anna) is so smart and knows what to do and not do,” Lee said. “I really like having her here. She’s probably my best friend.”