Youngsville boys basketball is 1-16, so it's safe to say the team has faced its share of adversity this season.
It pales in comparison to the adversity faced by senior guard Collin Lehnen.
Adversity that he is overcoming with his heart more than anything.
Photo by Carl Leichtenberger
Youngsville senior Collin Lehnen
"Being born deaf, I learned at a very young age that I had to work extra hard if I wanted to succeed at something," he said. "I do believe that I am a stronger person because of this... I think that if I continue to work hard, my dreams will come true."
Without being able to hear what the coach is calling, Lehnen has to depend on his teammates even more than the next player. "Even with implants, I usually can't hear the coach over the noise in the gym," said Lehnen.
Averaging nearly 15 points per game, Lehnen, along with his teammates, is overcoming a lot on the basketball court, and he wants others to know it's okay to be different. If nothing else, he wants others to hear that.
That's his dream.
"We are very proud of his accomplishments," said his father, Mark. "We have watched our son come a long way with many obstacles, but somehow he always comes out smiling. He works so hard at everything he does. He truly has a heart of gold."
A little "Q & A" with Collin Lehnen:
Q: What sports do you play, and who are your parents, siblings?
A: I play basketball, I used to run cross country, and I am going to do track & field this spring.
My parents are Mark & Stacie Lehnen. I have two younger brothers, Bryce (14) and Keagan (2).
Q: You have overcome a lot of adversity to be a standout basketball player. From what age did you suffer from hearing loss/impairment, and how has it affected your life up until now. How are you able to play basketball so well, interact with your teammates, coaches?
A: I was born deaf. I had a cochlear implant in my right ear when I was 3, and my left ear was implanted when I was 13. I have struggled my entire life (speech/language, comprehension, friends, etc.) and have to work extra hard at almost everything I do.
People often don't seem to have the patience to understand me or try to get to know the real me. Sometimes I get treated differently because I'm deaf. At times it's hard for me to understand what people are trying to say, but just because I might not understand something the first time doesn't mean I'm dumb! I am getting better about speaking up and saying "What did you say? I don't understand".
I love basketball! I practice as much as possible, and if I can't play, I'm watching basketball on TV or playing video games. I have had some wonderful coaches (especially Rey Neidrick and Ernie Hemmerly) who really took the time to work with me, had endless patience, helped me become a better ballplayer and figured out the best way to communicate with me. I try to give 110 percent to basketball and I never give up!
Q: Tell me about the knowledge or strength you have gained dealing with adversity through your childhood. Has it made you a stronger person, able to deal with more?
A: Being born deaf, I learned at a very young age that I had to work extra hard if I wanted to succeed at something. I do believe that I am a stronger person because of this, and the little things in life usually don't bother me. I am a pretty laid-back person. I have learned that if someone doesn't want to take the time to get to know me, then they probably aren't the kind of person I want to know. I am thankful for my girlfriend, Leah, who looked beyond my hearing impairment and has gotten to know and like the real me.
Q: What are your hopes and dreams, and what do you need to continue to do to realize them?
A: I hope that one day people will accept others regardless of their disabilities. And I dream to be happy with a lot of understanding friends.
Eventually I would like to get married and own a house out of town with some land. I think that if I continue to work hard, my dreams will come true.
Q: How have some of your teammates dealt with your hearing on and off the court?
A: For the most part, my teammates support me and help me understand what play we should be doing if I don't hear what the coach says.
One former teammate, Coll Dininny, always seemed to look out for me and encourage me and that meant a lot coming from a talented upperclassman.
Q: What are your goals for the rest of the season and after high school? College?
A: I want to win some games! I also want to enjoy the rest of my senior year playing basketball with my teammates. After graduation, I plan on going to college or a trade school and I want to try out for the basketball team. I'm not really sure yet what I want to go to school for.
Q: What are your hobbies off the court, outside of sports?
A: I like to hunt, fish, swim, play video games, and play frisbee. I also volunteer with Special Olympics basketball. I started out doing that last year as part of my graduation project, but I had so much fun that I'm doing it again this year.
Q: What sports have you played in your lifetime, and what are your favorite memories from those sports?
Karate - The first time I broke a board with my hand
Bowling - Getting 7 strikes in a row in one game!
Baseball - Hitting a home run!
XC - Mud runs with Coach Ray & the rest of the team.
Soccer - Dancing after I made my first goal.
Football - Being a running back and scoring 4 touchdowns in one game.
Basketball - Getting MVP and Defense Player of the Year; making two buzzer beaters!
Q: Who is your inspiration and why?
(I have several inspirations if I can only choose one, I choose my dad)
My dad, for teaching me how to play basketball and for being my biggest supporter.
God, because I know that He made me who I am for a reason, and He is always there.
Laurie West, for all that she has done; I couldn't have made it through school without her.
My family, for their unending support of everything that I do.
Bruce Cummings and XC coach Ray Bennett, for their friendship and guidance.
Q: Do you see yourself as being inspiring to others? Do you see yourself as a leader, or someone who possibly could be a leader?
A: Yes, I think I might be an inspiration to other people that have a disability or something that makes them "different" from everyone else.
I think I might be considered a leader on my basketball team because I always stay calm, I help my teammates with plays and I try to keep them calm.
Q: Tell me one question I should have asked, but didn't, and then answer it.
A: What is something that a lot of people might not know about you?
I like to watch classic t.v. shows like The Andy Griffith Show, Twilight Zone and The Three Stooges.