EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – UTEP women’s soccer assistant coach Kate Ward carries a very successful resume when it comes to her career on the pitch.

Not only is she just an assistant coach for the Miners, Ward is one of the most successful United States women soccer players ever.

Ward has been a member of the United States Deaf Soccer Women’s National Team since 2009 when she was 15-years-old. Since 2009, Ward has won five major international sporting tournaments. She has won gold three times in the Deaflympics (Taiwan 2009, Bulgaria 2013, Brazil 2022) and twice in the Deaf World Cup (Turkey 2012, Italy 2016).

“It is an honor to be able to represent my country and be able to say that I have won gold medals representing the country. Sometimes I like stop and think about it and its like “oh this isn’t something a lot of people get to say,” said Ward. “It is really cool but if I am being honest with you, every time I think about it, I think about the people that I’ve got to play with and be around. That has been something like if you take away the medals and I still get to play with these people and I still get to be a role model for people who grew up like me, I would take that in a heartbeat.”

When Ward talks about people who grew up like her, she’s talking about those who are deaf and hard of hearing.

Ward was three years old when her parents found out that she was deaf in one ear and hard of hearing in the other. Three years later, at the age of six, she lost all of her remaining ability to hear which led her to obtaining and wearing a cochlear implant from that point on.

“That [Cochlear implant] kind of allowed me to live in the “hearing world” and at that time my parents had to decide are we going to mainstream her and send her to hearing schools and have her go into the hearing world or have her go into the deaf world.” said Ward.

Ward didn’t come into contact with deaf culture until she was 15. That was the same age Ward made her debut with the United States Deaf Soccer Women’s National Team. That was the moment Ward gained another perspective on deaf culture.

“I think as I child I never really thought about it. I was lucky to be around people who understood and it wasn’t until I joined the deaf team that I really started to think about this is really hard, it is really exhausting,” said Ward. “Some of the things I’ve learned is just stick with it and I think people with disabilities often are looked at for their disability versus their actual ability. It’s really important that our society starts to shift that perspective and starts to see the ability and they things they can do and not just to define people by their disability.”

Ward has served as a role model for many deaf athletes around the world and has amassed a successful soccer career as a player. She now has the chance to win one of the sporting world’s biggest awards.

The ESPY Awards announced earlier this week that Ward was named a finalist for the ESPY for Best Athlete With A Disability, Women’s Sports.

“I found out two days ago. I wasn’t expecting it. I knew that someone threw in my name but I did not think I’d be on the final list,” said Ward. “It is kind of surreal . I feel like when I sit down and think about it, I’m like “Oh wow. That is actually kind of cool.”

Fans can cast their votes starting now and tune in to the ESPYS on ABC on July 20 at 6:00 p.m. Mountain Time.