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Stephanie Juge: Deaf Woman Achieves Through Determination

Deaf Woman Achieves Through Determination

By David Whiting, Orange County Register 3/229/2012

"A goal is not always meant to be reached. It often serves simply as something to aim at." – Bruce Lee

As I interview a woman in her taekwondo dojo, there's no sound except for the clacking of my laptop's keyboard.
It's my first interview with a deaf person. But already I'm ahead of schedule. As Stephanie Juge and I pass my laptop back and forth, a transcript of our conversation emerges.
To be sure, being unable to hear offers challenges. And Juge also struggles with speech. Still, technology has virtually eliminated the hassles of communicating.
But I wonder if others have caught up. After being laid off from a bank, Juge struggles to find a job.
Still, Juge, 47, isn't the type to let something like being born deaf get in her way. In a few days she will try to earn her black belt. Already, she holds the title of first deaf female pro football player.

• • •

Juge arrived on this earth gurgling and cooing. Sure, she was slow to talk. But her parents didn't think much about it – until the day Mom dropped a pan on the kitchen floor.
Her toddler didn't flinch.
The doctor asked a series of questions. There was something about measles during pregnancy. He concluded little Stephanie was born deaf.
Growing up in Anaheim with her brother and sister, Juge went to a school for deaf kids in Huntington Beach. There, she learned sign language and discovered she had a knack for sports. For a girl, she was fast and big. And she loved playing dodge ball with the boys.
As the years flipped by, Juge got a job working as a cash vault teller for a bank and heard (she's cool with the colloquialism) about the fledging world of women's professional football.
Yes, full-on tackle football. For women.
With the build of a linebacker, Juge strapped on shoulder pads, pulled on a helmet and tried out for the Long Beach Aftershock. It certainly wasn't the NFL. Heck, some Pop Warner Football games are better attended. But Juge didn't mind. She only wanted to test herself and fulfill a lifelong dream – to fit in.

• • •

Juge fit in and more. In its first year, the now-disbanded Aftershock won the championship in its league, helped in no small part by Juge. She smiles when she describes what she does best: "My job is the kill the quarterback."
When the Aftershock disbanded, Juge joined the Southern California Breakers, an Orange County-based team that is one of 42 teams in the Independent Women's Football League.
While she's unsure about her position on the roster next season, Juge wore her blue and white jersey, number 65, with pride. She also managed to do what few men do and played both offense and defense, switching off between offensive guard and defensive tackle.
She even has her own fan base.
Here's what urged last year: "Bring your own poster...yell (for the) first deaf woman professional football player (in) history, #65, Stephanie Juge."
The tickets aren't much, $10 for general admission. And neither is the pay. But it's not about money for Juge.
It's about what Juge's idol Bruce Lee urged others to do some 40 years ago before the karate master and film star died: Push your limits.
Read the full article and see the photo of Stephanie practicing her board breaking skills: