PERRY TOWNSHIP – Watch closely as Perry coach Matt Tabler calls his team into a huddle to discuss strategy.
Then look for Stacy Smith, as she stands by the huddle and listens intently to Tabler.
As soon as Tabler is finished, Smith begins flashing her hands and fingers and it quickly becomes apparent that she is using sign language to communicate with one of the Perry players.
Smith is an interpreter with a degree in American Sign Language.
Wesley Godfrey, a 5-foot-10 junior, is deaf and plays basketball for the Commodores with no thoughts of looking at his deafness as more than a minor annoyance.
“My first encounter with Wesley was when he came to a basketball camp as a third or fourth grader,” Tabler recalls. “I first thought he was really good at making eye contact, but then I realized he was reading my lips. He is such a hard worker and is actually one of my best communicators on the floor; he doesn’t let anything hold him back.”
The Perry boys basketball team is having a very successful season. The Commodores stand 14-3 overall and 6-0 in the Northwest Central Conference.
Godfrey is an excellent lip reader, but, due to the extreme noise in a packed gymnasium, Smith is there to translate instructions for him.
While Godfrey saw most of his playing time as a member of the Perry junior varsity team, he recently has dressed only for varsity games. He has seen playing time in every varsity game this year and averages 1.5 in both rebounds and points per game.
Godfrey went deaf at six months of age due to bacterial meningitis. He began learning sign language as a 2 year old and started lip reading at seven.
He also had a cochlear implant when he was two and that device enables him to hear and communicate in the classroom.
“It’s like a microphone, it allows me to hear.” Godfrey says as he displays the different pieces of the device and explains how they work.
When asked to name what he likes and dislikes most about playing basketball, Godfrey was quick with his answers.
“I like to guard the other teams’ best player on defense and do a good job; I also like it when Seth (Poling) gets after me to get a rebound.” Godfrey said. “I don’t like it when we change defenses and I get to the wrong spot (on the floor); crowd noise can definitely be a factor.”
Senior Jared Poling, who recently became the all-time score in Perry history, is brother to Seth and cousin to Wesley and speaks highly of his team-mate.
“He is a fun guy to be around and is one of the hardest workers on the team,” Jared Poling said. “He is a great kid and uses everything he has to the best of his ability.”
Godfrey is also a standout sprinter on the Perry track team in both the 400 and 800-meter races.
An upbeat and pleasant young man, Godfrey never hesitated when asked if there was anything he would like people to know about deafness that they probably didn’t know.
“Deaf people are proud of being deaf,” Godfrey said immediately. “God created heaven and earth and he also created deaf people.”
So if you get the chance, take the time to go watch the Commodores, who are having a special season, and Godfrey, who is a special young man.