February 21, 2022
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Erin Cembrale Selected to USA Deaf Soccer Women’s National Team
Montgomery, Ala.—Huntingdon College junior Erin Cembrale, a biology major most recently from Palm Harbor, Florida, and a center/midfielder for the Huntingdon Hawks women’s soccer team, has been notified of her selection as a member of the USA Deaf Soccer Women’s National Team. She will travel to Santa Ana, California, for a training camp in March and then to Caxias do Sul, Brazil, for training and play in the Deaflympics, April 24 to May 15. She is one of 22 women selected to play on the national team.
Born and raised in Mill Neck, New York, Erin was diagnosed with a hearing impairment at birth. Although she is the only member of her family who is deaf, her hearing loss is genetic and progressive. She hears with the help of hearing aids and was fitted for her first pair when she was six weeks old. Erin’s mom, a teacher of special needs children, has ensured that Erin’s ability to speak developed normally, defying predictions from Erin’s earliest doctors. “Most people don’t even know I’m deaf when they hear me speak,” says Erin. She attended Mill Neck Manor School for the Deaf until she was mainstreamed into public schools at age 5.
Erin played her first soccer games at age 3 and became hooked immediately, scoring for school and club teams ever since. Her family moved from New York to Florida during her high school years, and Erin learned about the USA Deaf Soccer teams at about the same time. She attended USADSA camps during high school and while in college—the most recent in Utah last July, where she was invited to try-out for the national women’s team.
When she plays with her hearing aids in, the cheers of the crowd compel her to push toward the goal. When she trains and plays for deaf teams, she leaves her hearing aids out so that her senses match those of her teammates and her opponents. In that setting, she has learned to love the silence. “It’s relaxing,” she says. “In the game of soccer, you’re conditioned to talk with your teammates to communicate during the game, but you tend to talk without looking up. In deaf soccer, you have to learn to pick up your head and find your teammates. It’s something I’ve had to train myself to do, and it has made me more confident in myself. For me, it’s calming not to hear multiple voices.”
From an athlete’s perspective, deaf soccer games are similar to hearing games, except that the athletes are not allowed to wear or use devices that enable or improve their ability to hear and referees use flags instead of whistles. Erin is relearning sign language so that she can communicate with some of her teammates. Always personable, friendly, and smiling, Erin says, “There are so many interesting women from all over the country who are involved in the sport, and I want to get to know them and learn their stories.”
Erin says soccer has boosted her confidence and enriched her leadership skills and her life. “I love the game,” she says. “Soccer has taught me time management, respect for others—and by that I mean coaches, teammates, opponents, and referees—and it has taught me how to listen.”
As she anticipates camp in California, where there will be training every morning and games in the afternoons and evenings, she knows that readiness involves both mental and physical preparedness, as well as her willingness to listen. That’s a skill she has perfected both with and without the ability to hear.