A Jock Like No Other

University of Vermont’s Men’s Lacrosse team has started their season successfully with a home win over Colgate. Aaron Jock, a freshman on the squad has proved himself to be an exceptional and dedicated athlete. For Aaron, the challenge of practice and competing on a varsity sport does not only lie in the physical and athletic aspect but in communication as well. Because Aaron is deaf, he is faced with a unique challenge in a sport that uses a whistle to start and stop play and players need to talk to decide plays and follow coach instructions.

Aaron began playing “box lacrosse” at the age of 9, a sport that is very popular where he grew up in upstate New York a few miles away from the Akwesasne Mohawk Reservation along the Canadian border. Jock’s family has a strong history of lacrosse, including an uncle who is a member of the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame.

Aaron was introduced to lacrosse by his older brother and had a typical start to lacrosse with several bruises and bumps. Early on he was encouraged to use his left hand, which became his dominant side and an advantage.

Aaron, a midfielder and face-off man comes to UVM with an accomplished lacrosse background having competed in NY State Empire Games and several lacrosse leagues, but he certainly had to adjust to a different sports atmosphere and pace. He explains the difference between high school lacrosse and lacrosse at UVM, “When I played in high school and in box lacrosse, I had many friends who knew me very well, they helped me a lot. Practically most of them knew sign language and how to make signals with me during the action in the game. I never had an interpreter for games or practices before I came to UVM. When I first came here and practiced with the team during the fall season, it was a lot harder than I thought it would be.” He went on to add, ” New players, new environment, new coaches, and being at its highest level of college lacrosse was overwhelming for me at first but I dealt with it no matter what-even though I required interpreters for practices because I knew that it would help me a lot since it was all new for me.” Aaron did say that at times there are certainly advantages to not being able to hear, “Not having players intimidate me with words when I have ball is nice, and there are a few advantages I have with referees but the biggest advantage out of all, not hearing so many fans yelling at me, giving me pressure, I’m glad to have that advantage!” For Aaron the game is different, “It is all mental-it is a mental game. You have to read what your opposing team is doing, and figure it out on your own to do what it is best for your team. That is how I play- I never communicate much in lacrosse; I just think what is best to win- score goals and read plays on my own.”

In terms of goals and his future at UVM Aaron said, “I really want to learn to communicate with my team- I want to keep working hard to get better for next three years so I can find some amount of playing time and enjoy the game.” When describing what Aaron has learned playing here at UVM, he said, “I learned so many things in college lacrosse. I learned that playing with both hands [right and left] and hustle are the most important at the D-1 level.” Aaron’s teammates have played a large role in helping him strive and reach a higher level of competition, “I try to keep up with fast players during the practice- it’s been lot of fun, they make me work hard and to get better everyday and I learn a lot from them.”

He is still working around any barriers and difficulties, and similarly to many other freshman athletes, is adjusting to the fast-pace of UVM lacrosse and hopes to see the team go far this year.