Imagine all the sounds a high school soccer player hears during a match: the cheering, shouting fans, the communication among teammates and coaches. There are the sounds of the whistles of the officials, the footsteps and collisions of the players and the thump when the ball is kicked.
It’s a sport of constant noise as much as one of constant motion.
But Krystyna Miller hears none of it. She’s deaf.
“I don’t know what normal hearing sounds like, so I don’t miss it,” Miller said.
She also happens to be one of the top soccer players in the area.
Just a sophomore at Plainville High School, Miller has been a key component for the Blue Devils girls soccer team this season. During the first match of the year she scored five goals, propelling Plainville to an easy 8-3 win over Bristol Eastern, setting the tempo for what could be a big season. Miller scored eight goals as a freshman.
Plainville is currently 3-4-1 on the season and has high hopes for the road ahead with Miller an important piece.
“I just want to be the best player I can be and help in any way I can,” Miller said, “to help my team fulfill their goal of making it to states.”
When Miller was born she was “referred” on her newborn hearing screening, meaning further evaluation was required on her hearing, not once, but seven times. The hospital told her parents it was “probably just fluid” and she would be retested.
“That was not the case,” her mother, Marcy, told The Herald. “Two weeks later she was ‘referred’ again. We knew at that point she had hearing loss, but we didn’t know the severity.”
It wasn’t until a few days later, when Miller’s parents took her to Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, when they found out she had severe to profound hearing loss.
“We were scared. We did not know where to turn or what to do,” Marcy said. “But on the other hand, we had a healthy baby girl and that was most important. We could figure everything else out.”
By the time Miller was three weeks old she was fitted with her first set of hearing aids. They were bigger than her ears her mother said. At 13 months she got her first cochlear implant - a surgically placed device with externally worn components designed to provide hearing - to help. When Miller turned five she got the implant placed in her other ear.
At the age of four, Miller’s parents enrolled her into Soundbridge, an oral-deaf school in Wethersfield, as well as soccer. And her love for sport only grew from there.
“She loves to run and be active,” Marcy said. “She’s always been very visual and as long as she is shown how to do something first, she usually can pick it up. She seemed to love soccer right from the very start. Coaches seem to like her as she grew at soccer due to the fact that she always dribbled the ball looking up, [a] hard task to learn at an early age.”
“I fell in love with the game and made great friends [playing] and they are still friends today,” Miller said. “Most of us even still play together on the high school team.”
Miller was brought up utilizing lip reading, but after going to Camp Isola Bella, run by the American School for the Deaf, three years ago, she wanted to learn sign language.
“I struggle at times when I can’t read people lips because they are not looking at me when they are speaking,” Miller said.”
On the field, Miller has always been fortunate enough to have coaches who were willing to work with her one-on-one. If they wanted her to do something different on the pitch, they would pull her out and talk to her, using a whiteboard, then put her back into the game.
“Sometimes it is difficult in a game because I have to always be aware of where everybody is,” Miller said. “I can’t always hear other players yelling at me to pass or hear them yell my name, that they are passing to me. I have to always be scanning the field visually.”
As Miller got older, she began playing for local premier clubs, beginning with PSE, a branch of Connecticut Football Club, at age 11. Two years later she went to Farmington Soccer Academy, where she played until this past year because she wanted to devote more time into basketball, which she also plays for Plainville High School.
“One funny story about being a deaf soccer player is that she has made more than her share of goals after a whistle was blown,” Marcy said. “She would turn around ready to celebrate with her team and everyone would just be standing there staring at her. Luckily, she has a good sense of humor.”ww
Sometimes when Marcy looks back, she questions herself if she should have done something different, but starting Miller in soccer at the age of four was one decision she’ll never look back at.
“I have a great support system in my family, my friends and my teachers,” Miller said. “I think it helped playing soccer with my friends at a young age because we grew up together with them knowing how they can help me understand [the game].”
Shelby Iava can be reached at (860) 801-5096 or firstname.lastname@example.org