If you watched Dancing with the Stars this season you know Nyle DiMarco waltzed away with the Mirror Ball trophy. What made it so special was DiMarco is deaf … he danced without and sound to help him keep the beat.
That win showed the world being deaf cannot stop anyone from realizing his or her dreams. DiMarco was a hero to the deaf community.
Well, we have a hero right here in Alexis (Lexi) Cano. She’s on the women’s United States Deaf Soccer Team and will head to Salerno, Italy, later this month to compete in the World Deaf Football Championship — the Deaf World Cup.
Cano, who is from Woodhaven, has had hearing issues since birth. She wears a cochlear implant in her right ear and uses a hearing aid in her left. She does not use American Sign Language to communicate, but she can read lips.
“When was little my parents had two choices – teach me to sign or to speak,” she says. “They taught me to speak.” Many of her teammates on the US team are completely deaf and use sign to communicate.
The hearing issue has never gotten in Cano’s way. She’s played soccer since she was two-years-old and for most of her time on a travel team her dad was her coach, which was helpful since “he knew my hearing issues,” she says.
Now she plays defense for the Gray Wolves at Lourdes University in Sylvania, Ohio, where’s she’s studying to be a nurse. This season record was 8 wins, 1 draw, and 7 losses, good enough to make the playoffs. They lost there, but not a bad outing for their first season.
Cano tried out for the US women’s deaf soccer team and is now she’s headed to the World Deaf Football Championship, where things get even more challenging. All players competing in deaf matches must remove all hearing aids before playing. Cano will basically play in silence.
She and her teammates can’t hear their coach’s instructions or the referee’s decision or the roar of the crowd.
“A lot of our communication relies on sign language and lip reading,” she says. “When we’re on the field, our coach can’t just yell directions at us. A lot of it is looking back at the coach or paying attention to our teammates and being consciously aware of what we’re doing. It’s all about reading one another and trusting each other.”
The first game is against Turkey on June 22.
This team has some pressure. The US women’s team took home the gold at the 2005, 2009, and 2013 Deaflympics and was the 2012 Deaf World Cup Champions. They have never lost a game let alone even tied one. Their record … 21 wins, zero losses, zero ties, 122 goals scored, and 8 goals given up.
Cano is excited about the World Cup and confident her team will win the champions again. The trust, friendship and commitment are there.
“We have formed a bond that is unbelievable,” she says. “This is a cultural experience that goes way beyond sports.
“None of us let our hearing stop us. We work hard and because of our difference we work harder.”
The U.S. Deaf Women’s National Team faces one other huge issue. Unlike other national teams in the World Cup it is a nonprofit and not funded. Cano and her team must each raise $5,000 to compete. If you’d like to help go the US Deaf Soccer website or to the team’s gofund me account.
Like Nyle DiMarco, Cano is spreading the word that a deaf person’s potential is unlimited. That is truly the sound in the silence.
Photo credit: Alika Jenner