Hello, My Name Is: Pam Domres
The SPASH rugby player is a leader on the team despite the absence of her hearing
STEVENS POINT, Wis. (WSAW) - Rugby is a rough sport filled with toughness, aggressiveness and determination. SPASH’s Pam Domres has all of that on the pitch despite the absence of one sense—she’s profoundly deaf.
Domres has played sports her whole life, with the list including basketball, volleyball and track and field.
“I was always very concerned, I didn’t understand the coach, understanding communicating on the field, understanding, talking to my teammates,” Domres said.
Domres was born hard of hearing, but her hearing was a progressive loss. Her hearing steadily dropped down to the point where she is now profoundly deaf. Communication remained a challenge through her discovery of rugby.
“Rugby is a safe place that I can get out. If I have frustration or if I’m feeling stuck, I can get my frustrations out,” Domres said.
In a sport that requires significant communication on the pitch, Domres’ comes almost exclusively from her hands.
“It was hard to figure out what to do with the team. The team is yelling, what are they saying? What does it mean,” Domres said.
But for an athlete who had competed in sports her whole life, she and the team worked on a way to ensure communication wasn’t a barrier.
Domres requires the use of an interpreter on the sideline, while the team has devised a system of hand signals from American Sign Language.
“I just use my eyes a lot, I depend on them so much. That’s really my skill, is using my eyes,” Domres said.
“It’s a lot of like playing telephone. I’ll say something to the person next to me, and they’ll say it to the next person. We just kind of go down the line,” senior Michaela Gleason said.
In two years on the rugby team, Domres is one of the team’s leading tacklers and one of their most reliable players.
“I know she’s going to catch my passes even if it’s a little wonky, her tackles are amazing, take your breath away awesome,” Gleason said.
She is the only deaf rugby player in the state, but she’s out to prove she can still find the goal line.
“Deafness is not an obstacle. It’s simply they can’t hear and yet they can play,” Domres said.
“To me, it doesn’t define her. She’s a real rugby player. She had some ooh, ahh moments last year. Some really physical play,” SPASH coach Tim Wandtke said.
She says she’s proud to be an advocate for the deaf community and to show them that they can play rugby too. She has hopes of playing at the college level and competing in the Deaflympics.
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