Michael Schmid, Oberlin High School’s 2007 valedictorian, has lived with hearing impairment his entire life and is now nearly deaf in both ears.
That hasn’t stopped him from fully enjoying his life’s passions: soccer and showing kids a disability doesn’t have to spell an end to things they love.
Last year, Schmid, 27, played in Italy for USA Soccer’s Deaf World Cup team and was congratulated May 3 at Oberlin Hearing Care by his lifelong audiologist, Richard Hetsko.
The returning athlete was given a commendatory plaque and, as a surprise, was told he’d receive a free pair of new hearing aids from the practice.
The patient and doctor shared an embrace, then Schmid reflected on their relationship and his longtime success on the soccer field.
“I’ve always been inspired by my role models,” he said. “They use sports as an avenue to tell you that whatever adversity comes your way in life, it can be dealt with. You just have to keep pushing forward and keep fighting. Soccer is the way for me to be myself. It doesn’t have to do with my hearing. It’s just me on a field with my teammates.”
In his senior year at OHS, Schmid was named Lorain County’s Mr. Soccer. He went on to coach the Phoenix boys squad for four years, also playing for the Cleveland Freeze of the Professional Arena Soccer League and graduating from Case Western Reserve University in 2011.
“I’ve played soccer my whole life and have always had aspirations to play at the top level,” he said. “We played about one game every other day in Italy and it was amazing. I was one of six players to play in every single one. I think the best word for the experience is ‘liberating.’”
The jersey Schmid wore overseas hangs in the Oberlin Hearing Care office.
“A third of the team is completely deaf,” he said. “They communicate through sign language. The other members of the team can hear somewhat and don’t do sign language. Then there’s hybrids like me. I’m not fluent in sign language but I understand enough. I could communicate with both sides and made sure everybody understood what was being said to each other.”
Hetsko said watching “Mikey” grow up before his eyes has been a true pleasure.
“I saw this man back when I was at the Oberlin Clinic and he was only 18 months old,” he said. “I’ve watched him grow, progress, and constantly do things that exceed out expectations. Usually when a person wears a hearing aid in school, the teacher also wears a device so the patient can hear them. Michael didn’t have that once he reached high school, but still managed to become valedictorian of his class. I wasn’t anywhere near that at my high school with normal hearing. It’s just incredible. This is a fine young man.”
Jonathan Delozier can be reached at 440-647-3171 or @DelozierNews on Twitter.