Noah: Hello! Welcome to USADSF Spotlight with Noah. I am Noah Valencia. Today we have a very special guest, Dr. Donalda Ammons here for an interview. She has been involved with so many organizations, on a national and international level. She has been involved in USA Deaf Sports for over 30 years! She also served for ICSD (International Committee of Sports for the Deaf), was its President until her retirement in 2009. We are so honored to interview her today.
Noah: Let’s start with you telling us how did you get involved in the International Deaf World of Sports?
Donalda: During 1979, I taught Spanish at Gallaudet. Art Kruger, who, at that time, was the Team Director for USA Deaf Team during World Deaf Games, now called Deaflympics. He was also the President of PanAmerican Deaf Sports. He had a dilemma that he needed help with Spanish translation to English and vice versa. He asked me if I could help with translations, sure, I was willing. As I was helping with translations. He noticed that I knew a lot about sports to which I replied, yes. This led him to ask me to become his assistant for the 1981 USA Team to participate in the World Deaf Games in Germany.
Noah: You were the one who made the transition from AAAD (American Athletic Association of the Deaf) to USADSF? Can you tell me more how that transition happened?
Donalda: As you know I was involved with the USA Team Committee for the World Deaf Games. I learned that the USA Deaf Team was not a member of ICSD. AAAD was affiliated with ICSD but AAAD’s main focus was on only two sports: basketball and softball at that time. This was puzzling because the USA Deaf Team focused on a wide range of sports: swimming; basketball; volleyball; wrestling; tennis, and many more, including winter sports; hockey; skiing, etc.. We continued to bring our USA athletes to Deaflympics, Winter and Summer, not AAAD. The USA Deaf Team was branched under AAAD. My perspective of this whole thing, the procedure, was not right, so I discussed this with the team. We agreed that there should be a change to the USA Deaf Sports Federation, “USA”, not “American” because in PanAmerican, countries are also called American, too. At that time, I was the chair of the USA Deaf Team for the next Deaflympics so I was persuasive for the change and we did it!
Noah: Wow that was tough! Now, with this transition, what was the biggest challenge you faced?
Donalda: You are asking me, “If I faced people who strongly opposed the changes, from AAAD to USADSF?” Oh Yes! I did. Most of the people I worked with were men, very involved in Basketball, some in softball, more passionate for basketball. Actually basketball was the focus of AAAD, its tournaments. It was a beautiful event with large gatherings but we needed to concentrate on a wider range of deaf sports. I could not do that alone, dealing with so many athletes, that change had to happen. So I had to carefully approach the concept to AAAD but it was immediately rejected. Of course they were afraid of changes which I could understand. So I decided to plan for a workshop to give during an AAAD tournament. During this meeting, there were so many older men in the audience who were loyal to AAAD for so many many years, eyes on what I was about to present, ready to oppose what I was proposing. I could understand their perspective but I went ahead and patiently explained the reasons for this change. You could see the change in their faces. At first their heads were shaking as to say no, but eventually you could see that their heads nodded as if in agreement. I emphasized that the USA Deaf Team will broaden the scope of serving more athletes, in different sport disciplines. I let that sink in, they nodded in agreement. That took time, about 4 to 5 years before that happened!
Noah: When you look back on your fondest memories with both AAAD or USADSF, what was your fondest memory?
Donalda: My fondest memory of AAAD, USADSF, was seeing the USA Team showing up at Deaflympics, marching during the Open Ceremony. My most touching moment was at Taipei, during the 2009 Summer Deaflympics, while I was ICSD President, watching our USA Team march down during the Open Ceremony, I was so touched. The Opening Ceremony was the best, well planned, the best I have ever seen. The Games itself was so well organized, well represented by the Organizing Committee. I was so proud of my contribution and of the USA’s involvement.
Noah: Thank you, Donalda, for your time. We want to thank Donalda Ammons for her time.
Until then, So Long.