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Life’s Challenges on a Football Field

by Meredith Mullins on January 31, 2013

CSD QB,  meeting life's challenges and reaching goals on the high school football field

CSD Quarterback Carlos Lopez

Reaching Goals Beyond the Goal Line

Football is in the air. The Super Bowl sportswriters are dissecting the matchups, the 49ers and Ravens are practicing their trash talk, and the multi-million dollar commercials are ready to debut.

But before getting lost in the hoopla, take time out for a story about the real value of football. Meet the CSD team, known for facing life’s challenges and reaching goals in an inspired and inspiring way.

Friday Night Lights

Richmond High School vs. CSD of Fremont, CA.

Oilers vs. Eagles.

Some folks are questioning the CSD first-year coach’s decision to play Richmond in this non-league game.

  • Richmond is ten times bigger in student body numbers and downright scary in player depth and bulk.
  • CSD has only 19 players on the roster; some team members play offense and defense.
  • The CSD team is also small in weight—nobody over 200 pounds—facing Richmond, where half the team weighs in over 200.

Add to that the fact that Sports Illustrated is covering the game—waiting for that David vs. Goliath moment.

The CSD players are excited, but nervous. Even though America loves an underdog, the odds are not in their favor.

The locker room is always quiet, but at this particular pre-game moment, it is unusually quiet. Coach Keller looks the boys directly in the eye and signs his message, with fast-flying hands.

He tells them they are ready. Now all they have to do is go out and play their best. There have been many great deaf teams in the past and some great California School for the Deaf football teams, but these teams were never noticed by the media. This is their opportunity to show everyone what they are made of.

CSD Quarterback during game play, meeting life's challenges with good game strategy and reaching goals

The no-huddle offense racks up the points

Underdog of the Year

Four quarters later, CSD has logged a demolishing 47–0 victory.

“The boys were on fire,” Coach Keller said. “No one, not even me, expected that kind of game.”

Sports Illustrated got their story and awarded CSD one of the coveted “Underdog of the Year” spots. The media paid extensive tribute to the team—spotlighting a deaf team that had defied the odds. The players got well-deserved respect. And the fired-up CSD Eagles went on to win the league title.

CSD Team Photo, a team known for meeting life's challenges and reaching goals on the field and in life

The California School for the Deaf Varsity and JV Football Team

There’s Usually More to Miracles than Meets the Eye

The season seemed miraculous; but, the team’s success is really about three simple strategies—philosophies that work on the football field and off.

1. Hard Work

The team follows Coach Keller’s “work hard” philosophy, for football and life. Reaching goals is not measured by wins and losses, says Keller. The primary objective is to be “undefeated in conditioning.”

2. Driving Passion

The team loves football. They play with huge heart and a drive to prove something—to themselves and to any opponent who thinks CSD might be an easy win because they can’t hear.

3. An Ingenious Game Plan

With a small, quick, and well-conditioned team, Coach Keller uses the no-huddle offense to great advantage. Communication is also a strength. The audibles are visual. The team uses American Sign Language. Other teams have to invent a language to signal plays, but CSD has a common language that is a part of their life.

The CSD players are also immune to trash talk. They can tune out the vocal distractions of the opponent and the crowd, which keeps them keenly focused.

CSD Coach Keller, helping players learn strategies for meeting life's challenges and reaching goals on the football field and in life

CSD Coach Warren Keller

New Strategies from an “Oh, I See” Moment

The California School for the Deaf players don’t see themselves as being at a disadvantage. And so, they aren’t. Coach Keller and the team would rather not even draw attention to the detail that they are deaf.

The OIC Moment is not that a small team with a perceived disability can win a league title (although that’s a nice story).

The OIC Moment is: When tackling life’s challenges, you can level the playing field with three simple strategies: hard work, driving passion, and an ingenious game plan.

Strategies we can all use when facing life’s challenges and reaching for our goals.


See the Sports Illustrated Underdog Tribute

Visit the National Association for the Deaf, the USA Deaf Sports Federation, and The American Association of the Deaf-Blind.

VIA Mercury News

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