Many months ago, shortly after the U.S. Deaf Women's National Team hoisted the World Championship trophy, there was discussion of the political unrest in Turkey; host of this summer's Deaflympics. At the time I never thought the best team to compete in an international deaf soccer tournament (28-0-0) would be watching via the internet.
Conversations between the USADSA board members circled round and round until it was decided the US Men's and Women's Soccer Teams would not attend the Deaflympics to be able to ensure the safety and well being of the team. It wasn't a decision made by the USA Deaf Sports Federation regarding all teams. Each sport was left to make the decision on it's own. Therefore, volleyball, track and field, golf, swimming & tennis are in Turkey. Soccer, basketball, handball etc are at home. In past Deaflympics upwards of 250 American athletes have participated. This year approximately 60 made their way to Turkey. We clearly were not the only ones that stayed home. The bummer is... I read the news and I'm not so sure USA is as safe as we'd like to believe it should be either.
While I cannot argue when it comes to matters of safety, I have never followed any sporting event with such a heavy heart. It is difficult for me to imagine how painful it must be for the players sitting at home. Tough because the World Champions are not participating. Tough because it is a rare occasion this team is able to train, to be together. Tough because it is the biggest stage in the world for deaf athletes. But the biggest dagger of all in my opinion, must be the fact that the players miss out on 2 weeks of being engulfed, immersed & emotionally hooked together with the deaf communities from all over the world.
|Dani Wheeler & Ashley Derrington|
I am not deaf, but I sensed the joy watching the players be the majority at the 2016 Deaf World Championship. That it was their world and they weren't trying to adapt to the hearing world that is an every day chore. Here, everyone simply just "gets it." It was one sport, and a smattering of families and I thought it was an incredible atmosphere; one that the players on our team rarely experience. Almost all of the players play for coaches and players that are hearing.
The Deaflympics is over 3500 athletes, plus their friends and family and fans, lots of fans. Yes, sports enthusiasts and a deaf fan club that want to cheer, support and watch their heroes fight for gold. From what I understand, it is the Deaf World Championship X 100. Following the results of Russia, Poland, England, etc... teams we beat comfortably, while we watch from the sidelines 6,000 miles away.
In addition to being bummed for the players, as a coach I see the missed opportunity to improve as a team. Recently the US DWNT had a training camp in Seattle (more to follow). The growth between Day 1 and Day 4 is amazing. New players join the team, veterans swoop them up with open arms, new ways to communicate occurs and great soccer breaks out... but it does take time. But the first day usually is chaos due to lack of time together, new players and an age difference of over 20 years.
|GK, Meghan Maiwald back in action with a new ACL|
Due to players having to pay for their own training camps, we keep them short and as cost effective as possible. A chance to train together, develop, learn, grow and improve for 3 weeks at the Deaflympics would have catapulted our team onto a higher playing ground for sure. With the addition of some young players to add to the pool of seasoned veterans, we would have LOVED for the world to watch us in action. New and improved to say the least.
Instead, we hit Seattle for a training camp. It was our staff's goal to 1) Improve 2) Create awareness bout the team and its successes. (to grow our player pool & find a sponsor) 3) Pay it Forward and 4)Have Fun. As much as we knew our hearts would ache missing the Deaflympics... the training camp in Seattle filled a void in a very big way. Any chance to be together and compete is cherished. As we follow from afar we do want to wish the competitors in Samsun, Turkey all of the best! But please know... we will be ready for the next competition.
On a side note, Beth Barbiers one of the newer members of the player pool has managed to run herself to the Deaflympics. She will be running the marathon and the 10,000 meters. Go Beth!
I know a 'blog' is supposed to be current news. The US Deaf WNT training camp held at the end of June was fantastic and the next post will have the scoop, but wanted to post this as many have asked why the USA is not competing this time around.
Stay tuned for the little less than current news about the training camp in Seattle.