Deaf & hard of hearing Tennis Program

What if we gave disconnected DHH children a chance to prove themselves, a reason to believe, personal growth, and a healthier future?

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Founding Story: Share a story about a key experience or spark that helps the network understand why this project got started or a story about how you became inspired about the potential for this project to succeed.

Most people are unaware of the issues that Deaf children face. Only 25% of their parents know enough American Sign Language to carry a conversation and because they are bussed to a central school with a DHH Program, there aren’t any friends in their neighborhood who can speak their language either. Students have told me that they've hit some balls w/ hearing family and friends. Many years from now, tennis will be an activity they can use to bond with their own children and grandchildren.

Which categories describe you? (the answer will not be public)

  • White (for example: German, Irish, English, Italian, Polish, French, Caucasian)


Location: Where is your organization headquartered? [State]

  • California

Location: Where is your organization headquartered? [City]

Los Angeles

Location: Where is your project primarily creating impact? [State]

  • California

Location: Where is your project primarily creating impact? [City]

Loos Angeles and Orange Counties

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Sports participation provides important benefits to all students particularly those with disabilities. However, these activities for DHH students are practically non-existent in America. Tennis a perfect activity for the DHH because there are no buzzers, bells, or whistles. However, because of communication challenges, money, and a lack of skilled instructors, they will never be a demographic group which will targeted by the tennis industry.

In the history of the sport, DhhEAF is the only program of its kind which teaches life's lessons to hearing impaired youth through tennis. 

Is your model focused on any of the following traditionally underserved communities?

  • Children who are differently abled

Does your model work within any of the following sectors?

  • Education

Year Founded


Project Stage

  • Established (the solution has passed the previous stages, and has demonstrated success)

Example: Walk the network through a specific example of what happens when a person or group engages with your solution.

It's explained that the students need to complete their schoolwork and maintain good behavior or else they don’t play. Our DhhEAF classes are presented in a way that uniquely affords teaching and learning opportunities. With guidance, our students realize the satisfaction of learning and gain self-confidence with new skills. And our Program transcends sport. Rather than trophies, DhhEAF's goals include academic gains, self-esteem enhancement, and improved behavior. Based on improvement, sportsmanship, or a good effort, sometimes a Day's Champion is selected and recognized. Simulating a proper grip, we end each class with a firm handshake and direct eye contact to demonstrate self-confidence, friendship and trust.

Impact: What was the impact of your work last year? Please also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

Why does everyone think that our DhhEAF Program is a great idea that deserves consideration for grant support? Because it IS a great idea! And because we uniquely have the knowledge, skills and experience to validate reaching additional DHH children. We are motivated by our students’ enthusiasm as well as a dearth of programs designed to serve their special needs. We have hope and an idea that our Program is available to every DHH child in the country someday.

Organization Type

  • nonprofit/NGO/citizen sector

Annual Budget

  • $100k - $250k

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is your solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

We DO realize the privilege of making a difference in this world thanks to the generosity of our supporters (mainly private Foundations). Their support helps us to nurture our students which can lead to success in other aspects of their lives. Every gift is greatly appreciated & we view each one as another validation of our Program. We should be a candidate for government funding. DhhEAF is an approved project of Community Partners 95-4302067

Unique Value Proposition: How else is this problem being addressed? Are there other organizations working in the same field, and how does your project differ from these other approaches?

Between 2004-20012, Roy Trafalski volunteered on the USTA Adaptive Tennis Committee and can confirm that we are the only Program of its kind, ever. Because of communication challenges, money, and a lack of skilled instructors, the DHH will never be a demographic group which will be targeted by the tennis industry. Current lessons are not affordable because most of our students are from low income families, who are also of Hispanic heritage.

Reflect on the Field and its Future: Stepping outside of your project, what do you see as the most important or promising shifts that can advance children’s wellbeing?

From one day to the next, I believe empathy for one another's individual challenges can play a big role in understanding one another, developing friendships, and establishing trust.

Source: How did you hear about the Children’s Wellbeing Challenge? (the answer will not be public)

  • Email

1 comment

Join the conversation:

Photo of Vid Micevic

Hi Roy,

As a tennis player myself, I absolutely love this idea. I never thought tennis would be such a great sport to support the deaf and hard of hearing program, but the more I read your proposal the more I love the idea. I really like how the unique the the value proposition is. 

As you continue to share your work, I just have a few questions about the DhhEAF program:
1. Have you thought of other ways to gain funding for the children to have access to drills such as getting famous tennis players to sponsor children or working with tennis clubs to get discounts deals on court time or even tennis gear. Would there be ways to partner with other large tennis organizations? What about summer camps wear college speech and hearing science students partner with DhhEAF students for a week to learn from each other.
2. It seems like the impact this program has made on the students can easily be seen from the surveys you have accomplished. Would you mind sharing some numbers to understand how the students have improved? Are there other ways to show impact beyond surveys?
3. On your impact section of the proposal, you simply mention that DhhEAF is a great idea. Undoubtedly it is, but can you show me why? How many students have went through the program? What were the results? Have there been recurring students? Have any been more interested in playing tennis? How do you engage with the students when the program is over?
4. I am also very curious of how a typical day during the program looks like. What sort of lessons are taught? How are the students engaging with each other? How do you gage the progress within the program?

Thank you show much for sharing your initiative! I cannot wait to hear about the impact you will make by combining the realms of deaf/hard of hearing and tennis! Keep up the great work.