Lewis has been playing soccer since he was 6 years old. This year all
that effort is really going to pay off because in August Lewis earned
his place on the 1997 United States Men's Deaf Olympic Soccer Team,
which will compete in Copenhagen, Denmark, next summer.
Both Michael and his older brother R.J. were adopted and brought into
the country by Robert and Phyllis Lewis of Catlettsburg. R. J. came
first and Robert was adopted when he was five years old. Both came
from Seoul, Korea. It took a year and a half to recognize and identify
that Robert was profoundly hard of hearing.
"We made a decision to keep Michael in a hearing world with a
hearing aid," said Michael's father, Robert Lewis. "We bought
him a membership to the Y.M.C.A. to encourage him to find something
to give him self©esteem. He got on a soccer team and really seemed
to have a talent for it."
While with the Y.M.C.A. Lewis played on the Rowdies club team from
Huntington. In the seventh grade he was a water boy for the Boyd County
team and the coach asked him if he would like to play and he said that
he would. At the end of his senior year, because of an extremely good
record and the fact that Lewis had played longer that any other team
member, Boyd County High School retired his jersey. It now hangs in
a glass case in the entrance
hall of the school.
Soccer seems to be a family thing for the Lewises. Lewis's mother
was varsity coach for three years, however during his senior year she
resigned as coach so she could set in the grandstand and watch him
Phyllis Lewis learned about the deaf soccer team through a soccer
magazine she picked up at a sporting goods store. Encouraged by both
his parents Lewis decided to try out. "Michael turned out to be
the youngest member on the Olympic team", said Robert Lewis, "38
men, between the ages of 19 and 35 tried out for the team and Michael
earned a spot on the 18 man
Lewis has already made a mark on the team. 50 seconds into the exhibition
game Lewis scored the first goal and then went on to score the second
goal in the team's 2-1 exhibition game victory over IFC (International
Finance Corporation) , who is a top contender from the Washington DC
"I'm so excited I can hardly wait to go", said Lewis. "At
first it didn't seem real, but as I begin to work out and get ready,
I realize it is an opportunity to live out a dream. For Spring training
I will be going to a training camp either in California or Florida,
then in April we will go to either Washington DC or Brazil for exhibition
Lewis will have no problem communicating with the other members of
the team because he practices signing as well as wearing a hearing
"There was very little signing at the exhibition game because
all the players were confident players and each one seemed to know
what the other would do", said Bob Lewis.
"I'm really glad I get to play without my hearing aid",
said Michael Lewis. "It gives me a sense freedom. When playing
with a hearing aid, it always has to be protected from being hit during
a game. On the deaf team the referee will give hand signals instead
of sounding a buzzer."
Lewis will be working with a trainer to set up a routine to strengthen
his upper body and will be running and riding a bicycle to strengthen
style soccer is played a lot rougher than in the US," said Robert
Lewis. "We play rough soccer but don't use the upper body as
much. Michael will be working out at the Y.M.C.A. and riding his bike
at least 8 miles a day. In soccer the teams are constantly moving and
in the course of a game Michael will run over 8 miles and make at least
2400 decisions. It takes a mental agility as well as physical to be
a good player."
The 18th World Games for the Deaf in Denmark will have athletes representing
many countries and their deaf and hard of hearing population. To qualify
for the team, one must have a 55 decibel loss in his best ear. A normal
range is from 0-to-15 or 20. Most of the players are totally deaf.
They are excellent athletes, except they are true amateurs and they
are ordinary people with jobs to take care of or classes to attend
at their universities. They receive no pay for their participation
in the World games, but like the regular Olympics they need support
for the expenses associated with international competition, with being
able to represent America.
Lewis must raise the money for his trip to Denmark plus all the rest
of the schedule. Robert Lewis has become more involved in the Deaf
Game than just watching his son play. He has volunteered to work with
public relations and to help with fund©raising for the Games.
He will be looking for ways to raise money locally and on a national
level for the AAAD (American Athletic Association for the Deaf).
"Deaf Olympics has very little publicity. I found out right off
everyone knew about Special Olympics, but few had heard of the Deaf
Olympics and I believe this is because of the communication barrier.
They have not gotten press coverage like the other groups."
Michael Lewis is the only one in Kentucky and possibly the first Kentuckian
to ever participate in soccer. The deaf schools in the states are where
most of the players come from and after this
year the competition will be closed for 4 years. Tryouts were held
at Gallaudet University in Washington DC, the Nation's best known University
for the Deaf.
"It was an emotional time after tryouts and they posted the roster
of the team," said Robert Lewis. Mike checked to see if his name
was on the list. When he came out I just looked at his
face and knew that he had made it."
The US Deaf Soccer Team is lead by Head Coach Bill T. Charlton, currently
coaching at Beaver College in Philadelphia. The other members of the
team are from all over the US. There are four alternate players.
Lewis currently attends Ashland Community College where he is majoring
in Audiology. School and living in a hearing world has not been easy
at times for Lewis, but he maintained a high grade average all through
high school and he has been doing a lot of things he hasn't done before
since becoming a member of the Olympic team. One of the things was
making his first speech at an athletic banquet recently. With his determination
to meet life and his talent for soccer, he will make Kentucky proud
as he plays for America in Denmark.