Upper Valley’s Osheyack Returning to Deaf World Cup

  • Norwich’s Yosef Osheyack practices dribbling with the U.S. Deaf Men's Soccer Team at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh in 2014. A Hanover High School graduate, Osheyack will participate in his third Deaf World Cup this summer.

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 3/24/2016 12:07:19 AM
Modified: 3/24/2016 10:39:11 PM

Norwich — About 20 seconds into a newly created promotional video for the United States Deaf Soccer men’s team, Yosef Osheyack points both hands at the camera and announces “speed,” one clip in a string of segments showing players describing elements of the team. 

Indeed, speed has always been an important part of Osheyack’s game, ever since the Norwich resident and 2009 Hanover High graduate helped the Marauders win three straight NHIAA Class I championships from 2006-08. 

Yet Osheyack — now 25 and preparing for his third Deaf World Cup this summer in Salerno, Italy — brings so much more to the U.S. Deaf team. It’s the intangibles that stand out most to U.S. coach David Kunitz. 

“My favorite part about Yosef is his spirit and his fight,” Kunitz said in a phone interview from Centennial, Colo., where he doubles as assistant director of coaching for the Colorado Storm developmental program. “He’s gritty, he covers a lot of ground and has a tireless work rate. He’s a real engine for us. He’s a strong tackler, he’s great one-on-one as a defender and has a good passing range.”

Osheyack — who played primarily in midfield at Hanover before switching to attacking defender in college and with the U.S. Deaf team — is 88 percent deaf in his left ear, 90 percent on the right side, though he’s such a strong lip reader and speaker that it’s virtually indistinguishable when interacting with him. He adjusts to communicate with teammates who primarily talk through sign language.

“I can do either one,” Osheyack said. “If I have my choice, I like to talk. I don’t want to lose that ability.” 

Osheyack feels his hearing impairment is barely an issue on the field. Like everyone else in Deaf World Cup play, he must remove his hearing aids during games. It’s something he often did in high school and college anyway, especially in inclement weather. 

“Soccer is a game where you use your eyes and body language, mostly, to play and to communicate,” Osheyack said. “It’s a game that’s more about feeling than anything.”

Castleton University coach John O’Connor, who coached Osheyack for two years at what was then known as Castleton State College, suggested Osheyack’s deafness may have helped him develop better awareness of what’s around him. 

“Sometimes, you have to teach players to check their shoulders and what’s behind them. For Yosef, it’s always been natural that he does it,” said O’Connor, a one-time assistant coach for the Dartmouth College men’s soccer team and the former head coach at the University of Rhode Island. “You see it sometimes where a player isn’t aware of what’s going on behind them and (an opponent) comes right up and steals the ball. There are very few times you’re going to see that with Yosef.” 

Osheyack, who played for the Spartans after suiting up for one season at Rochester (N.Y.) Institute of Technology, also helped Castleton with the intangibles Kunitz also lauded. 

“His biggest strength is his high energy. He loves playing, and he’s definitely passionate about the game,” O’Connor said. “When he transferred here from RIT, he gave us a really big boost. We used him at right back and right midfielder. He loved bringing the ball up so much, we’d have to lasso him back. It’s tough to do that, because he’s so good one-on-one and can deke out opponents.”

Osheyack was still in high school when he helped the U.S. Deaf team finish in fourth place in the 2008 Deaf World Cup in Patras, Greece. Four years later, the Americans didn’t fare as well in Ankara, Turkey, falling in the 11th/12th-place match against Greece.      

Osheyack feels the team has improved dramatically over the last four years, judging by what he’s seen at team camps in Pittsburgh and Chula Vista, Calif., in 2014 and last year, respectively. Kunitz is excited about several first-time players, including defenders Mike Schmid and Julian Mitchell. 

“I’ve gotten a lot better (since 2012) in terms of just learning the game, and I know the team has gotten a lot better, too,” Osheyack said. “I think this is our year to get gold.” 

Osheyack must raise $6,000 to cover expenses for the trip — as of Wednesday afternoon he’d accumulated $2,430 on his Go Fund Me page — and it’s a player expense Kunitz would like to see reduced or eliminated through better funding. He and team captain Trip Neil have been working to stage a future Deaf Pan American Games qualifying tournament in the U.S. to help increase awareness for the team. 

“It’s expensive to pay your own way for these events, and we’d like to do a better job supporting players,” said Kunitz, who noted that last year’s Pan Am Games were cancelled because of cost issues. “We’re working on branding and sponsorships so that we’re not asking players for so much of their own money.”

In the meantime, Osheyack hopes to keep playing for the U.S. Deaf team for as long as possible. Some of his best friends on the team include Mike West, of Washington, D.C., and Neil. 

“The experience is so valuable to me, both as a player and personally,” Osheyack said. “This team is like family to me now.”

Jared Pendak can be reached at jpendak@vnews.com or 603-727-3225.


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