Norman Williams never yells at the basketball players he coaches, although he sometimes waves his arms and wags his fingers furiously.
There are certain things he won't allow: bad sportsmanship, swearing, arguing with the referee. As a result, his team has captured three sportsmanship trophies in their league - a fact that pleases Williams.But it isn't good sportsmanship that sets Williams and his team apart. They are all deaf - and for the most part, so are their opponents.
The team plays in two arenas: as part of the Northwest Athletic Association for the Deaf and as representatives of the Salt Lake Valley Deaf Ward for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Until last year, Williams was a player and coach. Nowadays, he's putting everything he has into coaching.
"I always accept losing or winning," he said through interpreter Jane Bell. "But I fight to win. I forbid my players to swear, to fight and I teach them to accept whether they lose or win - it doesn't matter.
"I also advise them not to eat foolishly - and to always listen and understand what the coach is saying."
Williams said most of the team members were originally "oralists," which means they were lip readers. Now they have learned to "sign." He is just the opposite, although he can sometimes read lips. "I can read enough to know when my players swear," he grinned.
Deafness is a genetic trait for Williams. More than 200 of his relatives are deaf, including four of his eight siblings, his parents and his own daughters. His wife is also deaf.
It hasn't slowed him down. When he's not running around the basketball court, directing his team, Williams repairs the old-style teletype writers used by the deaf to communicate. He's been
with the Utah Community Center for the Deaf in Bountiful for four years and will act as director for the next few months. He'll also be involved in a variety of sports, including scuba diving, bowling, golfing, volleyball, softball. At 46, he never slows down, although a knee injury has curtailed his skiing career.
During the summer, he and a group of deaf and hearing-impaired friends gather in Murray Park to play volleyball, sometimes softball, and to socialize. "Tell people," he said, "that every Thursday from 6-10 p.m. we meet to play. And they're all welcome to come."
There are some changes ahead for Williams' team. One man is leaving for an LDS mission and another two are joining up. The team may leave the LDS league, which limits participation to age 30, and join the Salt Lake 4A league. Some of the guys are too old for the LDS league, but there's no limit in the Northwest Athletic Association league, and the players don't want to break up a winning act.
One other thing. Williams asked the Deseret News to list his players, because he said they're a great group of guys. So here they are: Mont Palmer, Miguel Cano, Keith Lauritzen, Ron Nelson, Neal Farnworth, Calvin Parry, Doyle Page, Neil Sandberg and assistant coach Jack White.