Hot on the recruiting trail and filled with a busy summer camp schedule, Northern New Mexico head mens basketball coach Ryan Cordova has his hands filled with a whole new challenge.
It literally involves nothing but his hands, plus a ton of dedication, effort and time.
With last month’s signing of New Mexico School for the Deaf product Deven Thompson, Cordova has gone back to the classroom and hit the Internet to learn as much sign language as he can this summer to accommodate for the addition of the 6-foot-10 big man.
“I’ve already learned a lot in the first few weeks that I’ve gotten after it,” Cordova said. “We will have an interpreter here early on in the season, but I anticipate once the season starts in November, I’ll be able to communicate pretty fully. I’m really going to get after it this summer.”
Cordova’s first lessons have been from resources available on the world wide web, but he plans to fully dive deeper in classes offered at Santa Fe Community College and attend the American Sign Language Immersion program at School for the Deaf later this month.
Cordova is viewing the opportunity simply as any other roadblock he’s come across while at Northern.
“It’s not a handicap or anything like that,” Cordova said about Thompson’s condition. “It’s a challenge and that’s what it is. It’s not a challenge for Deven, it’s a challenge for us to learn sign language and my players and staff will adjust accordingly.”
Most importantly, will be the ease at which Thompson can adjust to the program to successfully complete what he was signed to do for the Eagles.
“The biggest thing is that Deven feels comfortable,” Cordova said. “If he feels comfortable and he belongs, he’s going to dominate this sport. So, if I do my job as far a learning sign language, to help make him feel conformable, then I’m already putting us in a winning position.”
As for the adjustment and accommodations needed in the classroom, that arrangement will be formulated through the College’s Accessibility Resource Center, spearheaded by coordinator Verna Trujillo.
Trujillo has experience accommodating deaf students in the past, and she said the athletic portion of Thompson’s schedule is the biggest challenge.
“Classroom accommodations are pretty easy,” Trujillo said. “He will have an American ASL interpreter for all his classes, he’ll have a note-taker and tutor for all his classes. Basketball is the hard part because you have to look at the amount of practices and away games during the course of the semester.”
Trujillo said it is challenging to find and secure interpreters in the Española area because the majority come form Albuquerque or Santa Fe. She works with two different agencies, including the Community Outreach Program for the Deaf. The first — and most important order of business — will be to secure a contract with the agency to lock in interpreters for the fall semester.
“Usually the public schools are the ones who take up most of the interpreters,” Trujillo said. “We want to make sure we have those individuals for the entire semester. Once we have a contract for the first semester, they’re usually available, subsequently after for the next semester.”
Thompson has yet to register for his fall classes, but once he does so, Trujillo and the Resource Center will be able to provide a schedule with the estimated amount of hours interpreters will be needed per week. The cost can range from $75 to $100 per hour, Trujillo said.
While the academic schedule is something that remains constant, the basketball schedule can change, and Cordova has already been tasked to break down every possible practice, workout, film study and game time hours to provide an estimated amount of total hours that service will be needed for.
“(With the addition of basketball) The price probably triples,” Trujillo said about the potential costs. “Once we get the schedule for the basketball games, then we have to look at away games, mileage and overnight expenses. You’re also looking at weekends as an additional cost and after-hours costs.”
In the end, there will be two separate contracts: one for academics and one for basketball.
“The hardest part is putting it all together,” Trujillo said. “Once you get it all together, it just flows and it’s very easy once you know all the times and the dates.”
Northern President Rick Bailey spoke shortly about Thompson’s incoming arrival at the College’s Board of Regents meeting on May 31, and he said in a June 10 phone interview that, “Northern needs to take every step it can” and a team alongside Trujillo is already hard at work.
“In Deven’s case, we will bend over backwards to make sure he has all the resources and support he needs to achieve his educational goals,” Bailey said. “It’s amazing how much wonderful support we’ve gotten and encouragement we’ve gotten for this. I have to give a lot of credit to coach Cordova and his team for really being champions on this.”