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USA Women’s National Deaf Soccer Team players share the power of community

USA Women's National Deaf Soccer Team
I’m on the USA Women’s National Deaf Soccer Team, which recently had a training camp in Salt Lake City. Camp was filled with team bonding, communication work, good food, dorm-style housing, and of course, soccer.

It’s a special and truly unique experience to be surrounded by so many different people. They’re on what I call the deaf spectrum – those who sign, those who speak, those who do both, etc. The general commonality with our soccer team is that we struggle to hear in one way or another. It’s always a bit of an adjustment coming out of that and rejoining the predominantly hearing world.

Read more: Things that happen when a group of deaf and hard of hearing people are together

The importance of community

For instance, in the few days following camp, I’ll continue to sign the few words I do know in ASL. I was even doing it while on a video chat the day after camp with a new work client! I’ll continue waving my hand in people’s faces to get their attention. I’ll wait to speak until someone is looking at me. Friends and family continuously remind me that they can hear and don’t need visual cues.

I instantly miss being with people who understand my daily struggles and differences. I miss being in an environment where we can make fun of those struggles together and not feel anxious or judged. Instead, we can laugh about it together. One of my teammates, Beth Barbiers describes the feel of this community perfectly.

“When I’m with the team, my heart is full, and I feel like I’m truly home,” says Barbiers. “This community of women understands in a way no one else does the challenges faced not only as deaf athletes but also as deaf women. I am profoundly saddened every time I have to part ways when camp ends but I know I always have their support, even when we’re separated by states or even continents.”

Being a part of a team and a community helps you feel seen and whole as a person. Camp veteran Sydney Andrews also feels the same way.

“Camp is surprisingly the place where I feel the most heard,” Andrews says. “I feel seen, I feel understood, I feel safe and at ease. It’s where family comes together.”

“I feel seen, I feel understood, I feel safe and at ease.”

I spend days looking at the pictures taken during our time together and wait for more to come in from my teammates and staff.

This is what I call this period “post-camp depression.”

Inspired

There is the adjustment period and some sadness. But I’m always left feeling incredibly inspired by this diverse and hard-working group of people. We’ve all been able to survive and thrive in a “regular” society despite the odds that are supposedly against us. I’m inspired to continue to share our stories and ongoing journeys, be more involved in the deaf world, and to do more to help my people flourish in any situation that comes their way. Also, I’m inspired to meet more people in this wonderful, one-of-a-kind community so that I can continue to be inspired day in and day out.

“I’m inspired to continue to share our stories and ongoing journeys, be more involved in the deaf world, and to do more to help my people flourish in any situation that comes their way.”

“We ride such a high when we are together,” says Kate Ward, the captain of the USA Women’s National Deaf Soccer Team. “There’s something incredible about being around people who walk the same shoes you walk in every day, and the excitement and happiness every day we are together is infectious. When camp is over, it’s like coming off a sugar high. It’s a dull kind of sadness when I say good-bye to my deaf teammates. It’s not quite an overwhelming sadness yet, because I still am riding the magic of being around people just like me. But the days following are always difficult and somewhat depressing, because there’s a sharp shock when I realize I am back in the hearing world. It can be lonely living between two worlds, and I don’t always feel or remember that loneliness until I come back from a few days with my best friends in the world.”

I have found other ways to community with the hearing loss community that can bring out the same emotions I felt when with my team. The wave of emotions experienced is the same every time I meet and connect with another deaf individual (Hello, HLM editor Kirsten and others in this network!). It’s an instant comfort. It’s like that romantic relationship you dream of where you know what the other is thinking without even saying it. I walk away from interacting with these people feeling grateful that I get to be a part of something truly exclusive, something bigger than me.

It is my hope that every person, deaf or not, has a community like this (one). It should be one where they can feel sad for the best reasons and inspired to do something more!

What do you feel after being with a community like this one?

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Author Details
Ashley is a 29-year-old who loves to travel and try new things. She has bi-lateral, severe hearing loss, and wears a Phonak Naída V-SP hearing aid in one ear and has an Esteem implant in the other. She plays soccer for the USA Women’s National Deaf Team. She’s currently traveling the world in pursuit of adventure and perspective while also learning about the deaf and hard of hearing communities in various countries. Her travels can be followed on instagram @ashley5chanel or on her blog deaftattooedandemployed.com.
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Ashley is a 29-year-old who loves to travel and try new things. She has bi-lateral, severe hearing loss, and wears a Phonak Naída V-SP hearing aid in one ear and has an Esteem implant in the other. She plays soccer for the USA Women’s National Deaf Team. She’s currently traveling the world in pursuit of adventure and perspective while also learning about the deaf and hard of hearing communities in various countries. Her travels can be followed on instagram @ashley5chanel or on her blog deaftattooedandemployed.com.
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