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The GW Hatchet


The GW Hatchet

Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet

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Deaf player makes loud impact

Imagine yourself as a soccer player on a fast break, not being able to hear your teammates call “man on!” Imagine yourself open in front of the net, not being able to call for the ball. For most athletes this would be inconceivable, but for freshman men’s soccer player Mike Higgins, this is the story of his life.

A talented soccer player born with a hearing disability, Higgins has overcome tremendous odds to achieve his dream of becoming a Division I soccer player by earning a spot on the GW men’s soccer team.

Standing out on the field with his unparalleled speed and endurance, the Colonials’ rookie midfielder looks like any other player. The only noticeable difference is the presence of an interpreter who uses sign language to translate head coach George Lidster’s instructions. No other players on the team know sign language.

“It says so much about him that his disability is really not an issue on this team,” senior teammate Michael Goldman said. “It’s the ultimate show of how talented he really is. To us he’s not a deaf soccer player, he’s just another guy on the team.”

Higgins’ play in games is no different than any other player’s except he must rely on visual cues and his own knowledge of the game to execute the right plays instead of depending on verbal cues from his teammates and coach. Higgins’ interpreter assists him during games and practices, and also accompanies him to class.

Teammate and close friend Matt Miller said he admires Higgins’ ability to manage almost completely on his own.

“It’s really remarkable that he has no trouble at all doing anything on the field,” he said. “In the games, he uses body language to play. Eye contact is the key, the rest he does on his own.”

Higgins has played in eight games for the Colonials and has earned one point on an assist and tallied one shot on goal.

“I’m sure that his contributions to the team will increase as he goes on with the rest of his soccer career,” Goldman said.

As a left-footed player, Higgins adds depth to both the offense and the defense and “is pretty strong for being really skinny,” Miller said.

But Higgins’ current success did not come easily. After being cut from his club team before entering high school, he said he was disheartened and nearly gave up playing.

“I was thinking about quitting altogether, and then I found another team that was willing to take me on,” he said through an instant messenger conversation. “But Michael Jordan got cut from his varsity team in high school, and look at him now.”

After moving to Potomac, Md. from Seattle before his junior year in high school, the well-rounded athlete played on club soccer teams throughout the year. Higgins also played on the U.S. Men’s National Deaf Team from 1999 to 2001.

While his new high school didn’t have a soccer team, he became involved with the prestigious Bethesda United team in Maryland, a team that took him to the Maryland Under-18 State Finals and gave him valuable exposure to college recruiters like GW assistant coach Jake Ouimet. Ouimet first saw Higgins at a club tournament last year and immediately approached the standout’s father to discuss the possibility of his son joining the Colonial squad. Higgins said he soon added GW to his list of potential schools because of its proximity to his family along with his friends at Gallaudet University, a school for the deaf in Northeast D.C.

Looking for a college where he could get a top-notch education and play Division I soccer at the same time, Higgins said GW seemed to fit perfectly.

“When I came to visit, I just fell in love with the place,” he said. “There’s always something going on around here. I only moved here two years ago, so I still haven’t seen everything that D.C. has to offer.”

Always encouraged by family and friends back home, the support net has extended to include his team here.

“The guys on my team have been great,” Higgins said. “They’re like a family. Basically everyone on the team looks out for me. It’s like I have their back, and they have mine.”

While his teammates said don’t consider him unusual on the field, they all recognize that what he has accomplished in his 19 years is a unique feat.

“It’s amazing how much he has overcome to get here,” Goldman said. “And his abilities and accomplishments as a soccer player are really a tribute to him.”

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