False MI Prep Zone: Riverview grad overcomes disability to succeed on soccer field PHOTOS
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Riverview grad overcomes disability to succeed on soccer field PHOTOS

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Alexis ‘Lexie’ Cano has a simple approach to life. “I try to leave a lasting impression everywhere I go,” said the Riverview native.

Even though she’s only 19 years old, she has left a lasting impression on the soccer field despite having to overcome obstacles most players can’t imagine. Cano, a two-time All-Area soccer player for the Pirates, was born deaf. Lexie didn’t share this fact with many people. She didn’t want to be treated any different.

So how did she deal with it? “You have to put in more effort and work,” said Lexie, the daughter of Pete and Pat Cano. “You have to earn that respect from people because some people literally know nothing about hearing impairment, so they just kind of assume that you won't be good as a player. You have to be more alert and aware of coach talking or one of the players saying something.”

While “hard work” is a great way to answer challenges, it hasn’t always been easy. Lexie always plays with a thick headband to hold her hearing devices in place.

“There have been times, usually when I was younger, that I literally would have to get on my hands and knees, in the middle of the game, to find my hearing aid that was knocked off,” she said. “If it rains, I usually take out my hearing aid (but still play with my cochlear implant because it's water resistant) so I have to be more aware of coach shouting something or the referee blowing the whistle.”

A cochlear implant (CI) is a surgically implanted electronic device that provides a sense of sound to a person who is profoundly deaf or severely hard of hearing.

Lexie’s coach during her younger playing days was well aware of her hearing impairment.

“She just wanted to be treated like a regular girl,” said Pete Cano, her father and coach at Riverview HS. “It’s why I coached her for many years. We had our difficulties but we worked through them.”

They certainly did more than “work through them.” Lexie, who graduated in 2013, was one of the top forwards in the area during her junior and senior seasons. She was a two-time All-League and All-District player.

“My dad has coached me on a couple travel teams prior to high school, so when he became my high school coach my sophomore year, I was used to it,” Lexie said. “He's always been harder on me than most of the girls. I never got the easy way out. But now I can look back and I'm thankful that he was because if I wasn't pushing myself, he was pushing me.”

All of that “pushing” helped push Lexie to Pittsburgh last month to try out for the Deaf Women’s National team. The Deaf World Cup is in 2016 in Russia and the Deaflympics will be in Samsun, Turkey in 2017.

This was a pretty big deal.

“I honestly did not know what to expect,” she said. “I just mentally and physically prepared myself to be playing against some of the best players ever. I would imagine them working hard and push myself twice as hard. My friends and family and even strangers whom I have never met, would encourage me so much so I knew that with all the support that I have.”

The tryouts were “definitely one of the best times I've ever had,” she said.

It was an experience she will never forget.

“Some girls did not speak but solely relied on sign language - which I did not know but picked some of it up during the camp - and others were like me, spoke but did not know sign,” she said. “It is such a special group to be a part of, like these girls understood me. We all connected on a personal level - the fact that we can't hear. There was nothing to be ashamed or embarrassed of if you didn't hear what someone said. It was just the immediate feeling of being home, like this is what I've been working my entire life for.”

The players bonded right away.

“We shared many laughs and it just felt like we've known each other this whole time,” she said. “It is truly such a personal experience and so special because we all come together and work together to play the sport that we love while representing our country.”

Lexie wasn’t surprised that the talent level was high. She knew it would take everything she had to make the team. She certainly left a “lasting impression.”

“I felt confident going into tryouts because even though I came physically prepared, I was 100 percent mentally prepared which is so important,” she said. “I've literally spent my entire summer preparing for these tryouts.”

All of the hard work and preparation paid off. Lexie made the team and is looking forward to representing her country.

“I am beyond pumped,” she said. “It's such a privilege to be on this team that I can truly say I love already. I'm so excited to see what's in store for us as we head into our next journey.”

The women's team is the reigning three-time champions.

Lexie will be a sophomore this year at Schoolcraft. She is studying physical therapy and of course playing soccer. She will receive her Associates Degree in science from Schoolcraft College and plans to attend a university that has a physical therapy program.

“I also plan to play another two years of college soccer,” she said.

Last Updated: 8/22/2014 4:59:24 PM EST