Old City CrossFit in Washington, D.C., is located near Gallaudet University, a federally chartered private university for the education of the deaf and hard of hearing.
“We knew there was a chance that we’d get some deaf members,” says Old City coach Erin Losie. “We had some ideas as to what we would do.”
Shortly after opening, Old City indeed became home to many deaf members. Coaches began to learn sign language, and a community developed.
“The first day I got to class, I was shocked at the motivation, at how excited (the coaches) were to learn sign language,” says member John Castrese. “They wanted me to teach them sign. They were teaching me CrossFit.”
Instructing a class with deaf members requires coaches to use less words and more visual instruction, but a good coach is always prepared to integrate visual and tactile cues as needed in any situation. Old City coaches have learned to adapt to teaching CrossFit to mixed classes much the same way CrossFit Seminar Staff members find ways to quickly communicate with those who might speak another language.
“What deaf people tend to do is watch and follow,” says member Myra Yanke. “So we’ll watch someone do the movement and follow them.”
Castrese says deaf people and hearing people can be like oil and water, but at Old City CrossFit, coaches shake things up and ensure the two communities are integrated.
Video by Mike Koslap.
Additional reading: Hear and Now by Lon Wagner, published Feb. 1, 2012.