Deaf Herrschinger Libero Ryan Manoogian: The Lip Reader – Sports

Five seconds from the WWK Volleys Herrsching pre-season summarize well what type of player Ryan Manoogian is. Against friendly opponent Amriswil, the new libero of the Bavarian first division volleyball team ran after a ball that was flying through the air far away from the field, out of reach, regardless of the losses. While the coaching team was already covering their eyes in shock, he stumbled and tried to get his arms to the ball as he fell. “I didn’t even see the chair,” he said later, laughing. Of course not. When Manoogian chases a ball, he sees: the ball.

Herrsching’s coach Thomas Ranner describes the Californian as a super lively fighter.” Managing director Max Hauser says: “a seething volcano, especially strong in defense.” Manoogian got off the plane with jet lag and went straight to training, says Hauser, “and from then on The moment he was in the hall, there was a mood.” The latter is also remarkable because Manoogian himself can hear next to nothing of this mood. The 30-year-old has been almost deaf since birth. He uses special hearing aids However, when it comes to communication, we rely on reading the lips of our conversation partners.

In a family full of hearing people, he did not grow up with sign language, but received speaking lessons from the age of three. “It was important for me to learn to speak and practice listening with my hearing aid in order to be able to communicate with the hearing world around me,” he says. On the field, he relies on the body language of his teammates and agreed commands; he finds spontaneous verbal agreements overrated. He only learned sign language when he was nominated for the US national team for the deaf – his hearing aids are banned there. “When no one hears, it’s a completely different way to play volleyball,” he says.

In Herrsching, however, Manoogian is less out of character than one might assume. “If you don’t move your lips properly, there are sometimes misunderstandings,” says Hauser, “but those happen with other people too.” For Ranner, Manoogian’s hearing impairment is “certainly a new facet”, but he generally has to adapt to every player. Whether that means a little more time in direct exchange or something else plays a minor role. “He’s not 18 anymore, but has been involved in sport for a long time,” says Ranner, “and I think that it would be good for many hearing athletes if they gave feedback more intensively instead of just saying things. “

Manoogian likes to be explicitly recognized as a deaf athlete “because I want to show people that they can do it despite a disability.”

The Upper Bavarians were already well staffed with libero Lenny Graven, one of Germany’s greatest talents, when Manoogian reported to Max Hauser in July – and didn’t let up until he was on the plane. And that despite the fact that the backup role on his seventh station in the sixth European country is not a sporting advancement for him. With his last club, Fonte do Bastardo from Portugal, he came third in the European Challenge Cup. He also picked up a number of individual awards on his tour from Hungary to Norway. However, for players without EU citizenship, commitments in Europe involve considerable bureaucratic effort for the clubs, which is why other options fell through in the summer. “The years as a professional in Europe have made me a better version of myself,” says Manoogian. He is therefore grateful for the last-minute opportunity that presented itself in Herrsching this season. The former Herrschinger Jalen Penrose recommended the club to him “as the coolest club in the world”. The first mission is on Saturday in Karlsruhe.

Manoogian owes the fact that he became a professional to his role model David Smith. Volleyball was his sport from the beginning, he says, but it was only when he saw the US middle blocker on television that he believed that even a deaf person could become a competitive athlete. “He played in the national team and had hearing aids – just like me!” he says. Manoogian likes to be explicitly recognized as a deaf athlete “because I want to show people that they can do it despite a disability.”

He never felt restricted in his sporting career, but admits that “it would be completely different if I wanted to find a normal job.” Maintaining a foothold in the job market is “extremely difficult because hearing people often find it too strenuous to engage in communication with deaf people.”

Manoogian is also a reminder of what sport can ideally be: a little more of a bridge than a border, a little better, a little more inclusive than society as a whole.


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