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The Collegian

The Student News Site of Ashland University

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Ashland University

The Collegian

The Story of Vander Rocha: defying the odds

Eagle soccer player Vander Rocha has spent much of his life with a hearing disability
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Gabby Diehl
Eagle forward Vander Rocha walks on the field as the team takes on the Malone Pioneers

Recently the Ashland University men’s soccer team turned its 2023-24 fall season around. With helping contribute to the season turned around has been senior midfielder, Vander Rocha.

Rocha has been all over the score sheet with not just assists but scoring some big-time goals. As of right now, he is tied with the team lead with six goals, going along with his three assists. What makes Rocha special is that he has to rely on hearing aids throughout his daily life.

Rocha experienced hearing loss when he was 15. However, he is not completely deaf he says, with his hearing aids he can understand people’s words with precision.

He has been using hearing aids for about five years now, ever since his senior year of high school. During soccer games, Rocha takes out his hearing aids and relies on what he sees.

“The dynamic and loud atmosphere of the game, with enthusiastic shouts and cheers from players and spectators, makes my hearing aids unnecessary,” said Rocha.

Even without his hearing aids in use during games, he continues to be a prominent piece on the field through communication and play style.

“They know I have trouble hearing, so if I don’t answer sometimes, they understand they should come closer or speak a bit louder,” he said.

This good understanding of his situation helps Rocha help both himself and his team succeed on the field. Despite his teammates knowing that his hearing is not the best, he is still faced with some challenges during play.

“On occasion, there is difficulty in understanding my coach’s instructions when they were delivered from a considerable distance,” he said.

However, to help overcome these adverse circumstances and situations, he dedicates himself to learn different alternatives to spoken words.

“I dedicated myself to focusing on interpreting my coach’s cues through lip-reading and hand signals,” he said. “This helps me to grasp the main meaning of their messages and align my actions accordingly.”

The determination to overcome his disability brings a whole new level of competition to his persona whenever the Eagles hit the field.

Rocha wants to let others like him who compete or go through everyday life with struggling with hearing is to never back down.

“Your hearing loss doesn’t define your abilities; it’s just a part of who you are,” he said. “Embrace your passion for sports, work hard, and stay determined.”

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