UTEP soccer assistant coach Kate Ward will take part in training camp with the U.S. Deaf Soccer Women’s National Team from July 29 through August 2 at Real Salt Lake in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Ward is a captain for the team and has previously helped USA win two DIFA (Deaf International Football Association) World Cups (Turkey 2012, Italy 2016) and two gold medals at the Deaflympics (Taiwan 2009, Bulgaria 2013).
A Q&A with Ward follows below.
How did you get involved with the U.S. Deaf Soccer Women’s National Team?
“When I was 15, I first joined the team. I heard about the team when I was 12 years old, and one of the staff (members) for the men’s deaf national team saw me play at state cup. He went to my coach and was like ‘I noticed she had a cochlear implant; do you think she’d be interested?’ My parents and I were kind of like I’m a little too young so we waited a few years and looked into it again. I went to a camp in Florida. It was right before the 2009 Taipei Deaflympics, and it was kind of a whirlwind. I tried out for the team, two months later I was going to Taipei. So that was really an amazing experience, and since then it’s been a really special thing to be a part of.”
How long have you been a part of the team?
“It’s been 10 years, and I’ve really grown up with this team. It’s really changed my life in so many ways.”
What’s it like competing with the USDWNT?
“I think it’s really cool getting to compete in international events like World Cups and Deaflympics, but I think it’s really special being around people who are just like me. It’s not just my teammates. Yes, that’s special because they inspire me, they’re just like me, they understand me. But being around kids who are like me when we do camps and clinics and things like that, that’s extremely special. I don’t think there’s a lot of deaf role models in the world, and so being able to give back in that way has been incredibly special and touching in many, many ways.”
You’re off to USDWNT training camp next week. What is that whole process like?
“We have two to three training camps a year. It kind of depends on the cycle. In 2020 we have the World Cup and in 2021 we have the Deaflympics so things are starting to get more serious. We’re narrowing down the pool. There are about 25 players coming to this camp, and we’ll probably get down to a roster of 18-20 by next year. We’re training at Real Salt Lake, and that should be really cool. We’re excited to be there. I think it will be a fun time. It’s a really important time not just for stuff on the field but off the field also to get to know people as a team because team chemistry is so important.”
What’s the communication process for the team?
“The communication thing is really interesting. What’s so special about this team is that everybody has different pathways of getting there and different ways of dealing with their hearing loss. You have people who don’t use hearing devices at all, who primarily use sign language and can’t really lip read. Then you have people kind of more similar to me who grew up in a hearing world, had hearing devices and didn’t really learn sign language growing up because they didn’t have to. Then you have people kind of in the middle. Meshing all of that is really interesting. That’s something we always have to work on, that communication barrier. It’s really interesting on the field because no one can wear their hearing devices so you’re all on a level playing field, which is really cool but can also be really frustrating at times. Imagine trying to get your teammate’s attention or imagine being the coach and trying to get a player’s attention. It’s a creative means of communicating and working together.”
What impact has soccer had on your life?
“Soccer has had the biggest impact on who I am, and has helped me in my disability because I’ve been able to be normal. Obviously, I love coaching and I’ve gotten very involved in disability sports, which has been super special. Soccer is the best way for me to give back, and it’s something I’m super passionate about.”
What advice do you have for an aspiring young athlete with hearing loss?
“The realization that your disability shouldn’t hold you back in any way, shape or form. Just because I can’t hear or you can’t hear or something like that doesn’t mean you can’t be a smart, successful human being. You should never let anyone tell you no because that’s just not who you are. Your hearing loss can be a really empowering thing because you think about the barriers you overcome on a daily basis. Those are things that people don’t always have to deal with. Learn as well that when someone tells you no to not listen to that.”