Janel Birrenkott, who played women’s basketball at
Northern State University in South Dakota, achieved
a feat that is a first for the deaf that have played
During her career that ended in 1986, she led
the state women in most points scored and
with highest scoring average in one season.
This is a big feat inasmuch as the state has
about 15 schools that field women’s basketball
She played professionally for The Pride of
Iowa in the National Women’s Basketball Association.
This team was based in Des Moines. Unfortunately
she only played few games before the league folded.
She knew nothing about deaf women’s basketball
competition. It was by sheer luck that she
was with a group of hearing women that entered
a bar, after playing a recreational league
softball game. Her friends pointed Janel to
two deaf patrons that were sitting on the bar
stools, signing ASL to each other.
Shocked, but elated, she ran over, and through
note passing and gestures, she introduced herself,
and learned a lot about the deaf – social clubs,
ASL, sports, etc.
Since that time in the late eighties, she has been
quite involved with the deaf community..
She has been inducted in 2001 to the Northern
State University athletic hall of fame.