The sound of the game: Anessa Campos and her journey as a deaf Division I soccer player

Photo courtesy of CSUN Athletic Communications.

Michael Dumansky, Reporter

Every student-athlete at CSUN has their own routine. They wake up, go to class, practice and play their respective matches. Many of them go through their day with little to no problems. Redshirt sophomore Anessa Campos, however, deals with a challenge that many cannot see at first glance. Campos is a deaf soccer player who participates in the sport at the highest level.

“I have to take an extra step compared to other players to make sure I am getting everything right,” Campos said. “So for a normal person it would take them one step to understand something, compared to me, a deaf person, it would take me longer.”

Campos was born deaf. It is the only life she has ever known. Aside from the difficulty she has when participating in sports, her disability also affected her schooling growing up.

“I obviously couldn’t hear everything, so at the age of seven, I knew that I was different from everyone else,” Campos stated. “Early on, I had to go to speech therapy and learn how to say things the right way.”

It was a struggle from the beginning for Campos. She struggled with trying to live a normal life as she learned how to speak properly while growing up. As she progressed through this process, she learned how to read teachers’ lips, which helped her adapt to her school environment. This challenge didn’t stop her from competing in soccer. She continuously showed why she belonged, why she deserved to play.

At 16 years old, Campos earned a scholarship from Eastern Washington University, where she was able to play the game she loved. She was happy living in a new atmosphere and being able to play at the highest level. Campos redshirted her first year with the Eagles, and the following season she was able to showcase her talent. Campos appeared in 12 matches, where she played for a total of 212 minutes and tallied one goal on the season. Things were going well for Campos, but after two years at Eastern Washington, she felt she needed a change and wanted to come back home.

The talents she showcased as a top-tier forward/midfielder did not go unnoticed. As Campos was developing her soccer skills, she joined the Olympic Development Program. She trained with the top soccer players in the United States, but was not guaranteed a spot; she felt she still had to show why she deserved to be on the roster.

During one of her club games not long after, Campos was scouted by a referee who had connections within the U.S. Women’s Deaf National Team. He connected her with the coach and landed her a spot on the squad.

Just as Campos was preparing for this journey, she tore her ACL, an injury that devastated her. She so desperately wanted to compete, but took the advice of medical professionals and underwent the proper treatment to recover from this setback.

Despite the injury, Campos’ experience was something she previously only dreamed about. She traveled to Brazil in May of 2022, where her team competed for two months. During that time she was able to meet other athletes from all over the world and make new relationships. Her team fought all the way to the final, where they brought home the gold. As her time with the team ended, Campos was ready to head to her new destination: CSUN.

Campos was welcomed by new teammates, old friends and the coaches. She made new friends and competed at the highest level once again.

“Anessa brings such a positive energy and vibe the minute she arrives at the soccer facilities,” women’s soccer head coach Christine Johnson said. “She engages every single person in a warm and welcoming manner.”

Johnson said she knows that Campos has a lot of potential and that there are aspects of her game that will get better as her career progresses.

“I have big expectations for Anessa to continue to impact the team in positive ways, both on and off the field,” Johnson said. “She brings a lot of energy and I am excited to have her back on the field, and I am looking forward to the fall season.”

Through all her struggles, Campos has faced challenges in life and in the game she loves. Every time she steps onto the field, she demonstrates her passion for soccer and her desire to keep playing. Campos loves the feel, the sight and the sound of the game.