2019 Mankato Free Press

Wesley Shade didn’t know what to expect when he decided to show up at an open tryout for the U.S. Deaf Soccer men’s national team last November in Boston. Shade, who suffers from hearing loss, is a junior defender for the Bethany Lutheran men’s soccer team. “I didn’t know if I could play with these guys,” Shade said. “It was definitely a nerve-racking experience at first.” It turns out Shade was more than able to compete, as he was named to the final roster for the team competing at the Deaf Pan American games in Temuco, Chile, on Nov. 10-18. “As a soccer player, there’s nothing better than putting on that national team jersey,” Bethany men’s soccer coach Derick Lyngholm said. “It’s something most of us can only dream about, but he actually gets to do it.”

Wesley Shade

Bethany Lutheran defender Wesley Shade passes the ball to a teammate during a drill at practice. Shade will play for the U.S. Deaf Soccer men’s national team 

Shade was born completely deaf, but it was not discovered until he was 6 months old. He didn’t speak for the first two years of his life, but everything changed when he got a cochlear implant in his left ear at age 2. He got a cochlear implant in the other ear at 7. The implants allow him to hear almost everything, and despite not speaking until he was 2, he was able to make up for lost time through speech therapy. 

“It’s a bit of a challenge on the field with the sweat, but I can generally play through that. ... Having them definitely makes a big difference,” Shade said. Despite eventually making the team, the tryout process was gruelling. Tryouts included players ranging from ages 17-40, and were held over three-day periods. The short time frame led to difficult practices so the coaches could see as much as possible. After receiving good feedback from the coaching staff at the tryout in Boston, he attended another tryout in Dallas two months later. There was still uncertainty about whether or not he would make the team, but feedback continued to be mostly good. He then advanced to the final tryout, which was in Atlanta in July. Shade was named to the final roster earlier this month.

“It’s a culmination of everything I’ve worked for,” Shade said. “I’ve always wanted to play on the national team.”

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