When Santa Clara resident Danielle Wheeler, now 17, was three-years-old, her hearing was tested. From the test results, her parents learned that she has a severe hearing loss and would require hearing aids. In the “world of the hearing” on and off the soccer field, Wheeler admits to sometimes feeling left out because she is the only one who is hard of hearing among the group. But she feels that she fits in as a member of the US Deaf Women’s National Team (USDWNT) under the USA Deaf Soccer Association (USADSA). From June 19-July 2 in Italy, Wheeler will be representing deaf American women soccer players when sheplays as forward at the 2016 Deaf World Cup against deaf women from other countries, such as Poland, Russia and Great Britain.
“At the Deaf World Cup, I look forward to playing with soccer sisters that are deaf like me,” Wheeler says in an email. “It’s an amazing opportunity for me and I want to make the best of it and help the team win gold. I wouldn’t be on this team without my friend Meghan because she’s the one who came to me and brought me to try out a few years ago. I’ve been following the US Deaf Women’s National Team since I was in eighth grade.”
Wheeler refers to soccer as her happy place where she can feel free, have fun and relieve stress. To get her regular soccer fix, she plays with a club team based out of Cupertino called the De Anza Force. She also plays with her school team from San Jose’s Leigh High School. During her spare time, Wheeler also volunteers for the Bay Area Women’s Sports Initiative, co-founded by Olympic and World Cup soccer champion Brandi Chastain.
Meghan Maiwald, 26, whose mother’s family was raised in Santa Clara, is a goalkeeper and a 10-year veteran of the US Deaf Women’s National Team. She is also excited about participating in the Deaf World Cup.
“I really look forward to being with my teammates; they are like family to me,” Maiwald says in an email. “We have so much fun together and compete hard on the field. Italy is a fantastic place to be, and I look forward to interacting with players from other countries. Most of all, I am humbled and excited to represent the USA. We will be staying in Capaccio-Paestum, Italy which is just south of Naples.”
The US Deaf Women’s National Team participated in two training camps; one in Chula Vista, California, at the US Olympic Training Center, and recently in Saint Joseph, Missouri, at Missouri Western State University.
“We, as a team, unfortunately are only able to train together two times a year for four days at a time,” Maiwald says. “The reason is money; we are a self-funded organization where we pay expenses out of our own pockets and are supported by micro-donations from family, friends and fans. So, we train on our own and play with our club teams and [school teams to stay fit and be game ready].”