Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton athletic trainer Shane Winkenwader stared at the notebook and read the words to the question. There was a little smirk, and he shrugged his shoulders.
He sat back in his chair and stared for a minute. The 28-year-old had a second of silence. Silence is what he’s always been used to. He has been deaf since he was 2 years old, after a fight with meningitis, so what was there to answer.
What was something he wishes he could hear?
“I wish it was easier to order a pizza,” Winkenwader said.
Winkenwader is an athletic trainer. He is a husband of almost three years to Monica, who is also deaf. He’s a father to his 1-year-old daughter, Pearlika, who he can’t wait to grow up and order pizzas for him. Pearlika is not deaf, although Winkenwader said when his wife was pregnant he wouldn’t care if she was, nor does he care whether his second child on the way is deaf or not.
Winkenwader is the first full-time athletic trainer at D-G-F, so beloved many of the athletes have learned sign language. He also is an independent flooring contractor, who repairs lawn mower and power tools in West Fargo.
Shane Winkenwader is so much more than a deaf man.
“Being deaf is awesome because the only thing you can’t do is hear,” Winkenwader said. “Being deaf doesn’t stop me at all.”
With numbers growing in athletics, D-G-F athletic director Joe O’Keefe was looking for a full-time athletic trainer this year. He was told he could have a full-time trainer, but he was deaf.
“I said I don’t care,” O’Keefe said. “Since he’s started, our kids, our coaches love him. He goes above and beyond what he needs to do. He’s supposed to be here with the home games and the practices, but he’ll travel with our teams when he can. Our coaches don’t have to make any decisions now because he is on site.”
Winkenwader can read lips very well, otherwise athletes point where their problem is or communicate via notes on his phone back and forth. Winkenwader pointed at football player, wrestler and catcher Tyler Oberg and smiled when he was asked what’s the hardest part of doing what he does.
“We do some pranks on him once in awhile,” Oberg said with a smile. “Sometimes we’ll yell behind him. He does a phenomenal job at a job that requires a lot of communication between people to make it work. It shows if you want to do something all you got to do is do it, and it can be done.”
Winkenwader comes from a military family. He lived in six different states and went to five different elementary schools. One stop had him at North Dakota School for the Deaf in Devils Lake. He wanted to be in the United States Coast Guard, but couldn’t because he was deaf.
He calls his job at D-G-F a dream job. D-G-F is certainly happy he landed with them.
“We learned sign language for him,” D-G-F volleyball, basketball and softball player Alyson Brenna said. “He’s really open with it. He wants to communicate with you. It’s amazing. He had obstacles that he had to overcome and he works with it.”