The intersection of competition and culture

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  • KSD hosted teams from eight other schools for the deaf across the South in the annual tournament.
  • The event required months of planning and long hours of work by staff members and volunteers during the four days the visiting teams were on campus.

By Mike Marsee
mike.marsee@education.ky.gov

It looks like an ordinary basketball tournament, with the players, the cheerleaders – even a giant bracket taped to the wall.

But for the players, cheerleaders and other participants who converged on Kentucky School for the Deaf (KSD) recently for the Mason-Dixon boys basketball championship, this is no ordinary tournament.

It is the biggest event on the basketball schedule for the participating teams. Perhaps of equal importance, however, it is one of the best chances these students will have each year to fully immerse themselves in Deaf culture.

Teams from nine schools for the deaf across the South were on the KSD campus in Danville Jan. 23-25 to compete for the 68th annual boys basketball championship of the Mason-Dixon Schools for the Deaf Athletic Association.

The 13 games that were played to crown a champion made up only part of a schedule that included a free-throw and 3-point shooting competition, a cheerleading competition and nightly social activities.

“It’s not just a basketball game, it’s a cultural event,” KSD Principal Toyah Robey said. “These events, these are some of the only times that our kids all get to be together in one location.”

KSD Coach Mike Yance said he has some 25 years’ worth of fond memories from the Mason-Dixon Tournament, having experienced it as a player at Virginia School for the Deaf and Blind and as a coach at North Carolina School for the Deaf before coming to KSD, where he is in his 13th season as the Colonels’ coach.

“I really just fell in love with that experience, being able to play in the tournament, getting to meet other deaf friends, and now our kids get that opportunity,” Yance said through an interpreter. “Going from a player to a coach, it’s always good to see the kids have that same opportunity that I had. It’s good for them to make friends and to be able to socialize with other kids.”

The Mason-Dixon boys and girls tournaments are played at different schools each year. Robey said it’s an honor for KSD to host the tournament, though it requires months of planning and long hours of work by staff members and volunteers during the four days the visiting teams are on campus.

“We’re very excited and honored to host it. Our staff’s been working really hard to make sure everything is ready,” she said. “It’s a big event, I’m so proud of our staff, everybody’s really come together (with attention to) detail, and our focus is hospitality.”

Alabama School for the Deaf won the tournament, defeating Florida School for the Deaf and Blind in overtime in the championship game.

KSD will host the girls tournament again in 2023 as part of its celebration of the school’s 200th anniversary.

Kentucky School for the Deaf seniors Ben Shirley, left, and Jesse Rice sign the national anthem prior to the first game of the Mason-Dixon Tournament at KSD. Photo by Mike Marsee, Jan. 23, 2020
Kentucky School for the Deaf seniors Ben Shirley, left, and Jesse Rice sign the national anthem prior to the first game of the Mason-Dixon Tournament at KSD. Classes were not held during the tournament, but a few students who were not part of the basketball team participated.
Photo by Mike Marsee, Jan. 23, 2020
Byron Wilson, an elementary school teacher at Kentucky School for the Deaf, uses American Sign Language to introduce the starting lineups prior to the first game of the Mason-Dixon Tournament at KSD. Photo by Mike Marsee, Jan. 23, 2020
Byron Wilson, an elementary school teacher at Kentucky School for the Deaf, uses American Sign Language to introduce the starting lineups prior to the first game of the Mason-Dixon Tournament at KSD.
Photo by Mike Marsee, Jan. 23, 2020
Eric Gilbert (5) of Kentucky School for the Deaf leads a fast break as teammates Micah Tucker (1) and John Collins (33) and DaQuan Whetstone of South Carolina School for the Deaf and Blind keep pace during their first-round game in the Mason-Dixon Tournament at KSD. Photo by Mike Marsee, Jan. 23, 2020
Eric Gilbert (5) of Kentucky School for the Deaf leads a fast break as teammates Micah Tucker (1) and John Collins (33) and DaQuan Whetstone of South Carolina School for the Deaf and Blind keep pace during their first-round game in the Mason-Dixon Tournament at KSD. Nine schools played a total of 13 games to crown the tournament champion.
Photo by Mike Marsee, Jan. 23, 2020
John Collins (33) of Kentucky School for the Deaf drives toward the basket against South Carolina School for the Deaf and Blind’s Cole Haywood during their first-round game in the Mason-Dixon Tournament at KSD. Photo by Mike Marsee, Jan. 23, 2020
John Collins (33) of Kentucky School for the Deaf drives toward the basket against South Carolina School for the Deaf and Blind’s Cole Haywood during their first-round game in the Mason-Dixon Tournament at KSD. The Mason-Dixon conference is made up of 11 schools for the deaf from across the South.
Photo by Mike Marsee, Jan. 23, 2020
Cheyenne Jennings, center, interprets as Kentucky School for the Deaf boys basketball coach Mike Yance talks with officials, players and coaches during the captains’ meeting prior to KSD’s game against South Carolina School for the Deaf and Blind in the in the Mason-Dixon Tournament at KSD. Photo by Mike Marsee, Jan. 23, 2020
Cheyenne Jennings, center, interprets as Kentucky School for the Deaf boys basketball coach Mike Yance talks with officials, players and coaches during the captains’ meeting prior to KSD’s game against South Carolina School for the Deaf and Blind in the in the Mason-Dixon Tournament at KSD.
Photo by Mike Marsee, Jan. 23, 2020
Cheerleaders from Florida School for the Deaf and Blind perform at halftime of one of their team’s games in the Mason-Dixon Tournament at Kentucky School for the Deaf. Photo by Mike Marsee, Jan. 23, 2020
Cheerleaders from Florida School for the Deaf and Blind perform at halftime of one of their team’s games in the Mason-Dixon Tournament at Kentucky School for the Deaf. The event included a cheerleading competition.
Photo by Mike Marsee, Jan. 23, 2020
Jesse Rice, left, a senior at Kentucky School for the Deaf, mans a T-shirt table outside the gymnasium at Thomas Hall at Kentucky School for the Deaf. Photo by Mike Marsee, Jan. 23, 2020
Jesse Rice, left, a senior at Kentucky School for the Deaf, mans a T-shirt table outside the gymnasium at Thomas Hall at Kentucky School for the Deaf.
Photo by Mike Marsee, Jan. 23, 2020
Kentucky School for the Deaf boys basketball coach Mike Yance talks to his players during a timeout in their game against South Carolina School for the Deaf and Blind at the Mason-Dixon Tournament. Photo by Mike Marsee, Jan. 23, 2020
Kentucky School for the Deaf boys basketball coach Mike Yance talks to his players during a timeout in their game against South Carolina School for the Deaf and Blind at the Mason-Dixon Tournament. Yance has coached the Colonels for 13 seasons and played in the Mason-Dixon tourney as a student at Virginia School for the Deaf and Blind.
Photo by Mike Marsee, Jan. 23, 2020
Jennifer Sanders, a student development associate at Kentucky School for the Deaf, cheers along with other KSD staff members during the Colonels’ game against South Carolina School for the Deaf and Blind in the Mason-Dixon Tournament at KSD. Photo by Mike Marsee, Jan. 23, 2020
Jennifer Sanders, a student development associate at Kentucky School for the Deaf, cheers along with other KSD staff members during the Colonels’ game against South Carolina School for the Deaf and Blind in the Mason-Dixon Tournament at KSD.
Photo by Mike Marsee, Jan. 23, 2020
Manny Navarrette, Nancy Mann, Mandy Byrne and Jean Abney, left to right, talk with visitors as they serve food in a hospitality room for coaches and officials inside Brady Hall at Kentucky School for the Deaf. Photo by Mike Marsee, Jan. 23, 2020
Manny Navarrette, Nancy Mann, Mandy Byrne and Jean Abney, left to right, talk with visitors as they serve food in a hospitality room for coaches and officials inside Brady Hall at Kentucky School for the Deaf. A small army of school staff members and volunteers was mobilized to help KSD host the Mason-Dixon Tournament.
Photo by Mike Marsee, Jan. 23, 2020
Cameron McPherson (55) puts his arms around Kentucky School for the Deaf teammates Jaser Alfred (34) and John Collins (33) following the Colonels’ loss to South Carolina School for the Deaf and Blind in the first round of the Mason-Dixon Tournament. Photo by Mike Marsee, Jan. 23, 2020
Cameron McPherson (55) puts his arms around Kentucky School for the Deaf teammates Jaser Alfred (34) and John Collins (33) following the Colonels’ loss to South Carolina School for the Deaf and Blind in the first round of the Mason-Dixon Tournament.
Photo by Mike Marsee, Jan. 23, 2020

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