Soccer Today: Many Voices, One Dream = USDWNT
#USDWNT – 40 million people suffer hearing loss in the USA and there are 66 US Deaf Women’s National soccer players. With 21 wins, 0 ties, 0 losses reflecting 122 goals and only 8 goals scored against — this is an amazing team.
Amy Griffin is the Associate Head Coach for the University of Washington Women’s Soccer Program, and a former World Cup Winner in 1991. Griffin is also currently the head coach of the U.S. Deaf Women’s National Soccer Team (USDWNT), a role she fills with great pride. The USA Deaf Soccer Association (USADSA) and the USDWNT stress that deafness is a hidden ‘disability’. Under international criteria, to be eligible to compete in deaf soccer competitions, players must have an average hearing loss of 55 Decibels or more in their best ear.
Since 1999, when the team was founded, the US Deaf Women’s National Soccer Team have competed around the world in England, Belgium, Australia, Taiwan, Turkey and Bulgaria. In fact, the women are the reigning 2005, 2009, and 2013 Deaflympics Gold Medal winners and this soccer team has never lost a match.
Currently, the women’s soccer team is prepping for the 2016 Deaf World Cup in Salerno, Italy. In 2017, they will participate in the Deaflympics in Turkey. Most recently, they finished up a training camp in January at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, California.
SoccerToday recently interviewed Amy Griffin about her team and how they are preparing for the upcoming soccer competition at the Deaf World Cup in Italy.
Carrie Taylor: What are some of the challenges you face taking on this team?
Amy Griffin: There are a few, for instance the range of experience is enormous. We have Division I players who have played in semi professional leagues, to players who are 15 years old and have limited experience playing along side of much more mature, older players.
Another challenge is the communication styles from each player and staff. Some deaf players rely on lip reading, some rely on Cochlear Implants or Hearing Aids — which they are not allowed to wear during the games — and may not rely on sign language. There are other players who rely only on sign language for their daily communication on and off the field.
Carrie Taylor: How do you find the players?
Amy Griffin: I was given the database of our players and find other talented players thru social media, word of mouth and recommendations — we are hoping to keep a stream of players coming into the program.
It is important for former players and anyone who is aware of the U.S. Women’s Deaf National Team (USDWNT) to help spread the word and increase our awareness as much as possible.
Carrie Taylor: How deep is the player pool and are you still looking for players?
Amy Griffin: At this point, it is tough for me to accurately state the depth of player pool. Due to lack of funding, every player cannot afford to go to every camp. From my knowledge, the player pool needs to grow to help sustain the success of the program. Now that some of the older players have moved on, the newer players have enormous cleats to fill. I do think there are more players that either do not know about the program and/or are unsure of the level and may feel they should not try out.
Originally, I thought I would have to put my foot down and have to limit the number of players that try out, but as it stands now, we are encouraging more and more players to tryout for two reasons; I want to increase the competition and level of the player pool.
As a National Team Coach, I feel it is my job to keep the stream of talent coming through the ranks and continue to develop as many players as possible.
Even the young players should begin to gain experience at this level as well and experience the joy of the DWNT.
The success of the past teams has been amazing, but with a new era of players coming in, it will be very difficult to keep the level the same; especially with very, very limited and inadequate training times.
Carrie Taylor: Who are some of the U.S. Women’s Deaf National Team captains and senior players?
Amy Griffin: Out of the returning players, Meghan Maiwald is the captain. Seasoned vets are: Kate Ward, Sydney Andrews, Anna Smithers, Maddie Taylor, Liza Offreda, Barb Previ and Emily Cressy. Younger players that are still in high school are: Sabrina Hernandez, Chloe Rice and Gracie Fitzgerald. I have not met or seen all of these players play.
Carrie Taylor: How and why did you get involved?
Amy Griffin: No single answer stands out among the rest; I was honored to be asked and it sounded like an extraordinary fun challenge.
The toughest part about being a great coach is getting the entire team all on the same page.
If I can adapt and learn how to help sync a team that is hard of hearing on the same page, it will help me in all of my coaching endeavors.
I have heard that the personnel on this team were outstanding and I want to hang around amazing people in an environment that feeds my passion.
These players LOVE to play. I don’t care the level; if you pay to play, choose to play, or play without any recognition — you are a deeply passionate soccer player.
Also, I’ve always been interested in the deaf culture. My cousin’s son is deaf and I owe it to his family for sharing with me an atmosphere that has allowed me to see what is extraordinary — versus some of the perceptions that go along with being deaf. If we really nail this thing, we can help change how some view deaf people.
Carrie Taylor: Who else is on the coaching staff?
Amy Griffin: For now, former USWNT player, Joy Fawcett is the assistant coach for the soccer team but I am hoping to find enough funding to get Tina (Frimpong) Ellertson, also a former USWNT player, to join the staff as well. Not only does Ellertson know sign language, but she is also a great coach. I have had the opportunity to coach with Ellertson at the University of Washington where she was the PAC-10 Player of the year in back-to-back years. She is also a perfect fit for the combo of “work hard, play hard” that we strive for.
In a perfect world Lesle Gallimore would be able to find some time to help, but her schedule is always tough with both of us coaching the University of Washington women’s soccer team.
Carrie Taylor: How did the January training camp go?
Amy Griffin: Training camp was great! It was a big learning curve for me as I did not know any of the players.
At the training camp, were able to have a scrimmage and see what problems we can tackle for the next camp. We were also able to learn about each other’s strengths.
More than anything, it was inspirational to watch the love of the game come through during the whole camp.
This team simply loves to be together and we would often find them outside the door an hour before practice started because they would rather head out to the field and be together than hang in their rooms.
Carrie Taylor: What are the upcoming events that you are preparing for?
Amy Griffin: We have our 2nd and last camp at Missouri Western State University (MWSU) in St. Joseph, Missouri from April 27 to the 30th.
I would like to do something for the deaf soccer community. One of my goals is to reach out to any children in the area and possibly hold a youth soccer clinic for the deaf players. MWSU is in St. Joseph, which is just north of Kansas City.
I think it’s important that this group of women can help be an advocate for young women with respect to overcoming obstacles.
Carrie Taylor: Where does your funding come from?
Amy Griffin: All funding comes thru individual donations at this time. We currently have a GoFundMe website where people can donate. Fans can also acquire gear with our logo on it to help stir up some conversations and create awareness.
Amy Griffin: We have increased our Social Media presence in a big way. We have supporters like Julie Foudy, Morgan Brian and other US Soccer Women’s National Team players who will help tweet about our team and this has helped get the word out.
Also, the America Outlaws recently challenged their chapters to donate: the two America Outlaws chapters who raised the most funds for our cause won a free keg for their next viewing party. American Outlaws DC and American Outlaws Philadelphia were the winners. The USDWNT players from DC – Meghan Maiwald and Liza Offreda will join them for their viewing party on Feb 5th for USA Canada men’s game. The American Outlaws helped us raise a few thousand dollars right before the holidays. This was really awesome.
Carrie Taylor: What can we do to help?
Amy Griffin: You can help by letting people know about the USDWNT team and let more female deaf soccer players know about the opportunity.
Also, if you are looking to donate you can via our GoFundMe site. Every $ dollar helps enormously.
We are also hoping to get 3,000 Facebook followers by next camp in April and 5,000 by the World Cup. We have nearly 2,000 right now — so please follow the team on social media: Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
Editorial note: USA Deaf Soccer Association is a non-profit, 501(c)(3) organization. The USDWNT competes in the Deaflympics; the oldest international sporting event besides the Olympics. Players competing in deaf matches must remove all hearing aids before playing which creates another obstacle to overcome, balance – another important advantage for a hearing player.