Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Special Player Teaches Coach Some New Lessons

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Special Player Teaches Coach Some New Lessons

Article excerpt

COACHING BASKETBALL at North County Tech has never been easy. For one thing, the school doesn't take freshmen and has very few sophomores, so Coach Mike Boyce, who is really an English teacher, doesn't have four years to work with players.

Truth is, Boyce gets a lot of kids who need some work. The really good athletes generally go to schools with stronger athletic programs.

Boyce remembers the day he learned that a deaf student would be coming out for the team. He figured it was another cross to bear.

"I was under the misconception I was getting a handicapped athlete," he told me. "Shows you how enlightened I was."

The deaf student, Ronald Wyatt, turned out to be the best basketball player in school history. Before he graduated last spring, he set a number of school records. He was also team captain and was a Post-Dispatch Scholar-Athlete.

In addition, he was an all-state performer in track, which Boyce also coaches.

But the story of Boyce and Wyatt is more than the story of an athlete an d his coach. After all, Wyatt turned out to be more than just an athlete. He was prom king and won an award as the top student in his class.

For that matter, Boyce became more than just a coach.

Oh, it certainly started out as a coach-athlete sort of thing. If you were writing a script about it, you'd begin when Wyatt arrived at North County Tech, athletically gifted, but shy and unsure of himself.

In the beginning, his teammates were uneasy around him. Few, if any, had ever been around a deaf person, and the strangeness of the situation was highlighted by the fact that the Special School District provided Wyatt with an interpreter. She was always at practice, using sign language to explain to Wyatt what the coach was saying.

One day at practice, Boyce decided everybody should play without the benefit of hearing. He borrowed some heavy-duty earplugs from an industrial machine class, and had the players wear them.

An odd thing occurred. When the action would stop, all the players would look questioningly at the interpreter, as if they somehow expected to understand what she was signing.

At any rate, it kind of broke the ice.

Meanwhile, Boyce was growing increasingly close to Wyatt, who had no relationship with his own father. …

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