No Holding Her Back
LEHMAN TWP. — Communication is key.
That applies to practically everything in life, especially on a soccer pitch, where 11 athletes — forwards, midfielders, defenders, a goalkeeper — must act as one fluid unit in order to play their best.
Emma Stroud is a big part of that at Lake-Lehman, where the sophomore goalkeeper often instructs the defense in front of her and almost acts as an on-field coach for the reigning District 2 Class 2A champs.
Despite being born with moderate-to-severe hearing loss in both ears, Stroud never misses a beat.
“If you didn’t know, you would never realize. Never,” said head coach Kelly Adamshick. “The way she plays and the way she handles herself, you would never even have a clue that she would have any hearing difficulties.”
The only giveaway is Stroud’s hearing aids — “Glasses for my ears,” she says — that greatly improve her hearing.
In school, she sits at the front of the classroom to avoid missing anything. Sometimes, Stroud will have trouble hearing a coach on the sidelines, or, if it’s raining hard, even other players on the field if she takes out the hearing aids.
“I can still talk to them, but they just can’t talk back,” she said. “But as long as I know what they’re doing, we’re pretty much on the same page.”
And you’ll never hear Stroud say that her hearing loss has held her back in any way.
“The reason why it doesn’t hold me back is because my team never treats me differently,” Stroud said. “They all treat me like a normal person. Same thing with my coaches. Most people don’t know until they get close enough and see that bright green (hearing aids) in my ear. I used to have clear ones because it would hide them; but now I’m like, ‘Eh. Whatever.’”
Stroud has played soccer for as long as she could remember, starting as a striker, then gradually falling back into positions on defense.
Having dropped other sports like lacrosse and basketball along the way, Stroud has spent the last four years training to be the best goalkeeper she could be.
“Even just her presence on the field, her experience she has as a keeper — it makes everybody play at a higher level,” Adamshick said. “Emma comes out of the goal very well. She could take breakaways on, no problem. Nothing phases her. She reacts to everything.”
Stroud splits time with fellow goalkeepers Stephanie Ayers and Carlyn Blight, both seniors.
Despite being a mere freshman last year, Stroud logged plenty of time in the regular season and playoffs, including stopping a barrage of penalty kicks during a shootout in Lake-Lehman’s overtime win against Montrose for the district title.
“It was amazing,” Stroud remembered of that championship win last Halloween. “I’ve never felt anything like it. I’m just thankful that we got that far — no matter what the outcome was. I’m still proud of our team.”
About half the starting lineup is back this season at Lake-Lehman, which leaves an awful lot of production left to replace at the defense, midfield and forward positions.
After losing its first two games, Lake-Lehman has since won five in a row.
The win streak was highlighted Sept. 15 at Back Mountain rival Dallas, a defending conference and district champion that returned more starters than Lake-Lehman.
“I think our team played very well during that game,” said Stroud, who made 10 saves in the 3-1 win. “It’s the most I’ve ever seen us play as one. It really brought our confidence up.”
While Stroud is the last line of defense, she is supported by defensive starters Lauren Chapple, Paige Motovidlak, Sarah Salus and Kitt Patla, most if not all of whom she’s played with for years.
Together, the unit plays as one and Stroud fulfills her job of leading and communicating as well as any goalie in the conference.
“It doesn’t really affect me in a positive or negative way,” Stroud said of her hearing loss. “It just means that, ‘Oh, I can’t hear my coaches as well on the sidelines,’ and I can still hear people on the field. It’s more in the distance. It leaves me alone with my thoughts, which could be good.”
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