SALT LAKE CITY — When Jason Redmond set out to build the roster of High Plains Select — a tournament and college showcase girls soccer program — earlier this year, he was inundated with emails from prospective players and their parents.
It wasn’t at all surprising, as the chance to play elite club soccer in front of college scouts and coaches, not to mention the opportunity to contend for a national championship, is a significant draw.
Still, it meant Redmond had to watch quite a few teenage girls compete in order to flesh out the roster of a team that he wanted to be one of the best in the country.
Eventually, girls from Wyoming, Colorado, Montana, Utah and West Virginia made the cut, including Sophie Post.
The 15-year-old from Murray wasn’t really on Redmond’s radar at first, not before the mother of her teammate, Olivia Watt, who Redmond had coached before, reached out.
“I was talking to Olivia’s mother and she told me to take a look at this girl,” Redmond said. “I had lots of people emailing me all the time, but I was able to sit down and watch Sophie play.”
Almost immediately, he noticed something different about Post.
“It was very impressive,” he said. “This girl was really, really good. She was doing her thing out there and was more successful than most of the other girls I watched.”
Post made such an impression that she earned a spot on High Plains Select and has gone on to become an integral attacking piece on the under-16 team that will compete at the 2019 National Cup in Denver, Colorado, from July 19-23.
“She is one of those players that you wish to have on all our your teams,” Redmond said. “Her ball skills are very, very good. She has lots of power. She is a dominant player up top. We count on her to get us goals or work through things when they get tough.”
What Redmond didn’t know about Post when he first saw her play, what most don’t know when they watch her during Utah Avalanche or Murray High games — some of the other teams she plays for — is she is deaf.
Post has a genetic disorder known as reverse-slope hearing loss, which has progressively taken her ability to hear without aids.
Since she was 4 years old she, has worn hearing aids and has a hearing loss of about 65-70 decibels.
The impairment has made playing soccer difficult for Post at almost every stage of her life.
Communication with teammates is never easy, at least not at first, even though she wears her hearing aids during games.
Transitions to any new team, like when she joined High Plains Select, can be especially trying as she and her teammates have to figure out how best to communicate with one another on the pitch.
“It is very difficult at times, especially with a new team, to understand everybody,” Post said. “It is always kind of hard at first, and there are always hard moments. Soccer is a very verbal sport.”
Given time, Post has proven, however, with help from teammates, that her hearing loss is anything but an impairment.
“We learn to communicate in different ways,” she said. “Everyone adjusts and it becomes more about eye contact, arms moving in the air, not as much verbal. They’ll still yell and I can hear sometimes, but really my teammates make a big effort to help me.”
“She has dedicated herself and gives it everything she’s got so it doesn’t matter that she is hearing impaired,” Redmond added. “We treat Sophie just like any other girl, because there is no need not to. At this level, with her level of development, we treat her the same, but she is a very special individual and she always will be.”
Special enough to earn the attention of the U.S. Deaf Women’s National team.
Despite being just 15 — she turns 16 later this month — Post has already attended three training camps with the national team, the most recent coming last July.
She’ll make her fourth appearance with the team at the end of this month, as this year’s camp will be held July 29-Aug. 2 in Salt Lake City.
National team camp has proven the most difficult endeavor of Post’s soccer career, and not just because she has had to compete against grown women as a teen.
Hearing aids of any kind are banned from the national team, and ASL (American Sign Language) serves as the universal form of communication.
The thing is, prior to her first training camp, Post knew practically no ASL.
“The first time it was very scary,” she said. “I had never played with people who were deaf as well.”
Before long, Post was able to become fluent enough to get by at camp, with a little help.
“All of the girls were so welcoming and I learned some sign language,” she said. “I’m not completely fluent, but I am getting there.”
The next step for Post is to get picked for the player pool and earn a spot on the team for the 2020 World Cup, to be played next July in Korea.
“That is what I want to happen,” she said.
On a larger scale, she hopes to be part of a change where the deaf national team, and other paralympic groups, secure a place in the mainstream sports world.2 comments on this story
“I want us to get to a place where more people know about us,” she said. “It is World Cup season, and the regular national team is a lot more well known than the deaf national team. The deaf national team, the paralympic team, they need to get publicity. I want to help make that happen.”
Whether it be a national club championship with High Plains Select, a spot on the deaf national team or more, Redmond believes Post can pull it off.
As far as he is concerned, she can pull off almost anything.
“Sophie is going to be very successful at anything she does in life,” he said. “She’s special.”