Local Two Sport Athlete Thriving Despite Disability

By: Rudy Mezzy Email
By: Rudy Mezzy Email

Gibbon High Senior Brett Bendfeldt says there is one aspect of the Gibbon Buffaloes Boys Basketball team that sets them apart from the others.

"We have one of the better players in the area," says Bendfeldt, "that feeds to, basically, our whole team. Guys watch him and we get open cutters because they're all staring at him."

That player is junior Rylee Reinertson and his experience on the court is a little different than most top area players.

"Well, he's had a hearing impairment since birth," says Rylee's father and basketball coach Paul Reinertson.

While most players benefit from hard work and hustle during games, sometimes that can become a disadvantage for Rylee.

"Hearing aids and water or sweat don't go very good together, so we've had a few issues with that during games, but he's managed pretty well," says Paul Reinertson.

Rylee says, "Some sports I'm able to play and some sports I'm not, so basketball's just one of those that you kind of take a chance."

It's a chance his team is willing to take, too even if it means putting in extra work to communicate with their top player...

"They've got to get my attention most of the time. With all the noise, it's tough for me to hear at times," says Rylee. "So, they've just got to wave their hands and stuff to get my attention."

Paul Reinertson says, "We have a lot of hand signals for plays and things like that. Also, then our other players are really good at making sure they get next to Rylee and tell him what we're going to do next."

Aside from basketball, Rylee is also one of the top golfers in the state. He tied for fourth place in last year's Junior PGA Championship as well as being named Nebraska Junior Amateur Golfer of the Year the last two years.

Paul says his son's restriction is an advantage on the links and hopes it can also be one on the hardwood, "It works really good for golf. You can actually turn them off and you hear nothing, you just concentrate on your own game. In basketball, you get a lot of people yelling at you. The crowd's pretty loud, but if he just turns his hearing aids off, he's in his own world. He doesn't have to hear anything."

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