Lawson Pair: Oklahoma School for the Deaf Head Football Coach – Presented by Coaches Corner

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In his my 25th season as head coach of OSD football, Lawson Pair has grown his program into one of the top programs in the country for hearing impaired high school athletes. 

Located in Sulphur, Oklahoma, OSD (Oklahoma School for the Deaf) serves grades K-12 and their varsity football program has grown into a championship program. 

Coach Pair grew up in Louisiana where football was king, but he gravitated to another sport as a teenager. 

“Actually, I was much more a baseball player than a football player growing up. I played football formally only in junior high while at Youree Drive Junior High in Shreveport, La. Bad experiences with coaches over my deafness was a large factor in me not playing football in high school. I just stayed with baseball. In retrospect, I do regret not sticking with football more for two reasons; first, I liked playing! I playing in literally hundreds of pickup football games. Second, I could have educated those coaches that my deafness was not the barrier they saw it to be and made it easier for any other hearing impaired students following me to play football,” said Pair. 

Also hearing impaired, Pair teaches his players they are no different than their opponents. They are simply football players. A lesson his athletes can carry with them through life. 

The joy of coaching this team for 25 seasons boils down to two things for coach Pair. 

“Two things stand out. Watching our players develop is one. Many of our players come to OSD having never played football before. It’s great watching young, inexperienced kids grow into competent football players. Secondly, the rapport I have with my players is special to me. We talk about much more than just football,” said Pair. 

The coaching staff at OSD is unique. Coach Pair has assembled a staff that can effectively communicate with the players while teaching them fundamentals of football. 

“Chris Reagle was in charge of the offense. He’s retiring this year and I know we’ll miss him. Fortunately, Jason Sledd joined us this year and he’ll take over most of the play calling. Jason was the quarterback on the first OSD football team I coached 25 years ago. We had a volunteer, Jimmy Mitchell, who helped us on special teams. I hope to have him back next year. All of us are Deaf,” said Pair. 

Lawson Pair better pic

Challenges do exist for a hearing impaired football team, but OSD and coach Pair have found ways to overcome those challenges. 

“On the football field, I really don’t see a hearing loss as much of a handicap. Not being able to hear a snap count might be a disadvantage but then I could say a Deaf player who depends on his eyes for all communicating might be more aware of what’s in their visual field than a normal player would, so does the Deaf player have an advantage there? Ears don’t block and tackle,” Pair explained. 

Not limited to football, coach Pair is involved in several sports and activities at OSD. 

“I am an assistant coach for the Academic Team, boys golf team coach, and, this year only, assistant coach for the boys basketball team. They needed help, so I’m helping, but not very much,” claims Pair. 

Support for the program seems like it is at an all-time high. Something not lost with coach Pair, his staff and the players. 

“Without the support of the school and facility we wouldn’t have a team. Keeping a football team equipped is expensive. Also, OSD teams do a lot of traveling to other states. This year in football we went to Mississippi, Arkansas, Missouri, and Minnesota to play other Deaf schools there. The school provides us with the means to do this kind of traveling. Our community is actually the parents of our students and our alumni spread all through Oklahoma. We have great support from them. OSD sports events are places these people go to reunite with old friends,” said Pair. “The whole basis of OSD is to provide a place where a Deaf or hard of hearing student can come and be part of a full educational experience with no communication limitations. All teachers know sign language here. We use whatever works best for the individual student, be it sign language or speech. At OSD a student can do well in the classroom, be a player on a team, be a Homecoming Queen or King, or anything else he or she could be in a regular school with perfect hearing. I like to say we level the playing field. 

As uncertain future concerning the number of players the team will have is always something coach Pair is aware of, but he’s hopeful the numbers will grow and the program will continue to be the standard. 

“It’s always unpredictable how the team will really be like year to year. Students graduate. New students enroll. Discipline issues happen. Injuries can have a huge impact. Sometimes the number of players we have gets worrisomely small. But OSD football was always overcome difficulties for far and stayed on the field these past 26 years. Next year looks good. Two years from now our numbers will be low unless we get new players,” said Pair.