Green High School coach scores spot on U.S. deaf soccer team
|Photo courtesy of Stacy Messner|
The 2006 Green High School graduate was a four-year letter winner as a goalkeeper. She was a second-team Suburban League selection as a junior. As a senior, Messner earned first-team Suburban League honors and was named to the All-District team. Green won district titles in 2004 and 2005 and a regional championship in 2005.
“I started in the Green Soccer Association program. Jeff Basone was my soccer coach throughout youth and high school, too. So he taught me a lot, along with the girls on the team,” Messner said. “I bleed black and orange, and I will always be a Green Bulldog. I have always been proud to state that I live in Green.”
In 2006, she became the starting goalkeeper at Malone University as a freshman. The team made it to the NAIA Region IX/X semifinals — losing in a penalty-kick shootout to No. 5 ranked Houghton College.
For the past five years, however, Messner hasn’t been playing soccer competitively. Instead, the assistant Green High School soccer coach has been teaching younger players how to play the sport.
“I started coaching because I thought my playing days were over,” she said. “I love coaching and giving back to the community. I love being a part of young girls’ lives and watching them learn and love the game of soccer and become great young adults.”
Back on the field
Last year, Messner made the decision to give playing soccer another shot when she started the process of trying out for the USA Women’s National Deaf Soccer Team. At the start, though, she had some big hurdles to overcome.
“When I saw the ad last August for the deaf team tryout, I was grieving the death of my father and grandmother, raising my sisters and finishing up my last semester at Malone University. My whole life had changed so quickly in six months. I was lost, unsure of what I was going to do next,” she said. “Plus, I was out of shape — big time. When I started, I weighed 230 pounds. I went to three tryout sessions [in August, February and April], and at each session I lost weight.”
Messner said she is down to 185 pounds, her playing weight in college, but she said the weight loss was “a big struggle.”
“I am not young anymore. I am 24 years old and I have responsibilities,” she explained. “I have been raising my two younger sisters for the past two years, along with coaching high school and multiple youth teams. Along with working and doing the everyday ‘mom’ things, it has been hard to find the time to train for this. In the beginning, I just wanted to play again and get in shape. I never thought that I would actually make the team.”
Messner said playing for the USA Women’s National Deaf Soccer Team has given her a chance to be around other athletes who have gone through struggles similar to her own.
“I love being a part of a group of women that love this game, along with overcoming our deafness,” she explained. “Growing up in Green, I was the only one that was deaf in our community that I knew of. I was able to hide my deafness growing up — to the point that people didn’t know that I was deaf — but it was still something that I had to overcome. To be a part of a team, with players that have experienced some of the same situations and emotions I have, makes me feel like I am not the only one that knows what it’s like. It becomes an even playing field for us, when we all get to play against deaf people.”
On the flip side, though, an even playing field presents a few new challenges, Messner said.
“When the team plays, we are not allowed to wear our hearing aids, which means I can’t hear anything on the field,” she said. “In the game of soccer, it is very important to communicate on the field. But in our game, the ball has to do the talking for us. If we pass the ball hard, that means that there’s a man on us; if we pass it slow, then we have time, etc. We also have to use our eyes a lot. We have to keep our head up. We also have to do ASL [American Sign Language], which I haven’t done since I was 10 years old. When I am around the team, I pick up on it well, but when I come home, I don’t have anyone to sign to, so I tend to lose it.”
From July 16 to 28, Messner’s team will be playing in the 2012 World Deaf Football Championships in Ankara, Turkey.
“It’s basically the Deaf World Cup,” she said. “I leave July 12 and return home July 29. I have never flown overseas before, and it is going to be an amazing experience to be with my teammates over there. USA is ranked No. 1 and has won gold the last two events.”
Playing for the USA Women’s National Deaf Soccer Team, however, is not free.
“Everyone needs to raise $5,000, and I have $3,000 so far,” she said. “Our team does not receive any financial support from our country. USA is the only country that does not financially support the deaf team.”
Those who wish to help support Messner can go to any FirstMerit Bank and make a deposit in the “Stacy Messner for the USA Deaf Soccer Team Benevolent Fund.”
“They can also go to my online donation site at www.wepay.com/donations/usa-women-s-deaf-soccer-team_1, or they can also go to www.usdeafsoccer.com and click the donate button and attach a message stating that it’s for Stacy Messner,” she said.
To follow Messner on her journey with the USA Women’s National Deaf Soccer Team, go to www.facebook.com/stacy.messner.1.
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