Former LU tennis star Hangstefer competes at Deaflympics
Monday, July 29, 2013
By Mark McGee
Former LU tennis star Hangstefer competes at Deaflympics

When Daniel Hangstefer was playing tennis for the Lipscomb Bisons he didn’t call attention to the fact that he was 60 percent deaf.

Born with the hearing loss like two of his siblings Daniel didn’t let it be an obstacle. He played the No. 1 spot in both singles and doubles for the majority of his career. In the No. 4 spot he earned Atlantic Sun All-Freshman Team honors in 2007. He was a two-time member of the Atlantic Sun All-Academic Team with a degree in Communications.

“I never considered myself to be deaf,” Daniel said. “I was never going to let that get in the way of what I wanted to do.”

But while serving as an assistant coach at Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls, Texas he decided it was time to become more involved in the deaf community.

“I kept the fact that I was deaf low key,” Daniel said. “I have worn hearing aids my whole life, but I really didn’t grow up in the deaf community.

“I really didn’t know very much about it until I went to Texas. That is where I really starting learning about it. The last two years I have learned what a great opportunity this is for me to reach out to people. That is how I found out about the Deaflympics.”

Daniel has been participating in the Summer Deaflympics in Sofia, Bulgaria. He won two singles matches before being eliminated and one men’s double match. He and his sister, Emily, are still competing in mixed doubles. The closing ceremony is Aug. 4.

Emily also has a 60 percent hearing loss along with an older brother. Their older sister, Katie, is the coach of the United States team.

“It is just like the regular Olympics, but you have to be legally deaf to play in it,” Daniel said. “Most everyone on our team played college tennis at some level.”

Daniel explains there is no reason for why hearing losses affected some members of his family and not others. Three of his siblings do not have a hearing loss.

Most everyone in his family has a tennis background. He thinks that his hearing loss might have been more of a challenge had he chose to compete in another sport.

“There are advantages and disadvantages in tennis to being deaf,” Daniel said. “You might not be able to hear what your opponent is saying, but you might not want to hear it.”

There is one major difference in the Deaflympics for Daniel. None of the athletes are allowed to wear their hearing aids while competing.

“That is very different,” Daniel said. “I have never really done that before.

“I can’t hear when my opponent strikes the ball without my hearing aids. How the ball sounds coming off the other person’s racquet is a big part of the game. You can figure out how fast the ball is going and what type of spin is going on. I have had to rely a lot more on visuals than my hearing.”

Hangstefer, a native of Chattanooga, Tenn., was homeschooled. All of his family members attended the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga. Daniel was the exception.

When he returns from Bulgaria he will go to Denver, Colo., to be the head coach of the men’s and women’s tennis teams at Metropolitan State University of Denver.

Dr. Lynn Griffith, who recruited Daniel to play at Lipscomb, is not surprised that his former player has become a coach.

“While I stopped coaching at the end of his freshman year, Daniel and I stayed in regular contact,” Griffith said. “He continued to improve his play and wound up playing No. 1 singles position for the Bisons.

“More importantly though, while I was very proud of the player Daniel was becoming, I was more proud of the type of man Daniel was becoming.  One could see his maturity coming through in his life.  Very few people knew of Daniel's hearing loss.  He did not use that as a crutch.  That always impressed me.”

Three years ago Griffith experienced some noticeable hearing loss and Daniel was the first person he contacted for advice on how to handle the situation. Griffith has also given strong support to Daniel as he has pursued coaching jobs.

“I have kept up with Daniel and his development as a tennis coach,” Griffith said.  “When Scott Linn (coach at Midwestern State) contacted me about Daniel being a graduate assistant, I did not hesitate in giving Daniel a good recommendation.

“When Metropolitan State contacted me about a recommendation for Daniel, I was happy to give him a good recommendation. When I saw that they had hired him, I was ecstatic.”

Griffith says that a player like Daniel is one of the reasons he stayed in coaching as along as he did before returning full-time to the classroom at Lipscomb.

“Seeing a past player, that hopefully you had a positive influence on, have success is one of those rewards that does not show up in a paycheck, but is very satisfying,” Griffith said. “I am very proud to have been one of Daniel's coaches.”