Ron Bazil, the head track coach at West Point, was trying to explain to three potential Olympic runners how to get the best jump at the start of a race.
"Push forward on your front foot," he said, going down to a crouch, slapping his front leg, repositioning his back leg, making pumping motions with both arms. "Don't jump back. When you start off, surge forward and cut towards the pole." He waved at an imaginary spot 20 yards down the track. "But don't cut your opponents off. You have to do it smoothly."
After his speech, Bazil looked up, but none of the runners was watching him. They were looking over his shoulder at an interpreter, who gamely tried to convert Bazil's acrobatics into sign language.
The runners, and the rest of the 100 athletes training this week at Gallaudet College, are preparing for the Deaf Olympics that will be held in 1985 in Los Angeles. The camp, and three similar regional camps scheduled for next year, are designed to prepare potential athletes for the games and to give the coaches a chance to evaluate the nation's deaf athletes.
"We have some talent here," said Ted McLaughlin, head track coach at Southern Methodist and a member of the 1985 staff. "We don't have the numbers we would have liked, but all of these athletes have definite potential.
"This camp is a great idea, although there's not much time," McLaughlin said. "All we can do is work on the fundamentals with the athletes. Hopefully, they can take what we teach them back to their high schools and colleges and work with it through the year."
The athletes, who are training in wrestling, basketball, track and field, swimming and volleyball, work out twice a day with the 33 coaches and clinicians running the camp. In the evenings, film and lecture sessions are held to further stress fundamentals.
Most of the athletes come from the southern and eastern regions of the country and many are former Deaf Olympians. Most had the $150 cost for the camp supplied by civic groups in their home towns.
"This camp is a great concept; obviously, it is necessary and valuable," said volleyball Coach Scott Mose, former women's coach at Rutgers and assistant coach of the women's team at the 1976 Montreal Olympics.
"This isn't my first contact with the deaf, but in the beginning I wasn't communicating," Mose said. "I had to make an adjustment. I had to make sure I brought everyone together in a group in front of me when I wanted to speak. But because of their loss of hearing, the deaf have developed some of their skills far more than a hearing person. I find these athletes' hand-eye coordination to be very good."
Mose, who said he had taught some deaf athletes at his summer volleyball camp in New York, was impressed with several of the volleyball players attending this week's camp. In particular, Vicki Kitsembel, a member of the past two Olympic teams and a 1982 graduate of Gallaudet, and Sally Ripley, an 18-year-old from Kansas City, stood out.
"We can surprise people if we work hard and train," said Kitsembel through an interpreter. "Scott emphasizes quickness, like they do in other countries, like Japan. He says it is more important than any of the other skills. We are progressing, and I think we can get a gold medal this time."
"This camp offers me a lot," said Ripley, 18. "I thought I already had most of the skills, but I find there's a lot I still have to learn."
"The athletes keep getting better," said John Weick, who has been the Olympic swimming coach since 1965. "The advanced training techniques are largely responsible for this, but camps like this will certainly help. The era of dominating a sport like we have may be over, because the other countries are catching up, but I think we'll be as good a team as we were last time."
The Deaf Olympics were first held in Paris in 1924, but U.S. teams did not compete until 1935 in London.