LAWRENCE (KSNT) – KU freshman Kadence Stafford is taking the softball team’s communication skills to another level because, sometimes, she can’t hear them.

“I read lips really good, so if you’re not facing me and I don’t have [hearing aids] in, I can’t hear you,” Stafford said. “It’s only like mild to moderate, so it’s not that bad. It’s really not that big of a deal to me because I’ve grown up with it. It’s just a part of my life and I don’t think anything of it anymore.”

Stafford has worn hearing aids since she was 5-years-old, just after she started playing softball.

“My parents thought I was super stubborn and wouldn’t listen to them,” she said. “My dad’s client is an audiologist and recommended me to get tested, and I did and ended up having hearing loss.”

The hearing aids irritate her sometimes, but she adjusts to play through it.

“When it’s super windy outside or when it’s raining, like in travel ball I would have to take them out, and I just can’t hear on the field,” Stafford said. “My teammates, instead of just yelling from third to short, they’ll walk towards me and make sure I know, or if I miss a play that’s happening, they call time and tell me.”

Teammates don’t mind giving her the extra help because she rarely needs it.

“She doesn’t let the fact that she can’t hear fully sideline her at all,” utility player Hailey Cripe said. “So, when we’re doing drills and stuff like that, she’s very easy to talk to.”

Stafford’s actually making the entire softball team better.

“I’m big on communication, anyway, so I think it just puts a little more emphasis on us being efficient and really exact with what we’re looking for on the field when we are communicating,” head coach Jennifer McFalls said.

She’s also providing some laughs along the way. During one practice drill, the team faces the outfield wall while ground balls are being hit toward them. They can only turn around after they hear the bat hit the ball. McFalls uses the drill to help with her team’s reaction time, but didn’t foresee how Stafford would do in the drill.

“Kadence looked at me and she was like, ‘I can’t hear the bat,'” Cripe said. “I was like, ‘Coach! Kado can’t hear the bat!’ And she was like, ‘That’s very rude of you to say.’ Kado was like, ‘No, I didn’t think that was rude at all. That was just honest.'”

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