Kasidy Chileen sometimes has to step away from her role as a player and be a coach. As a hearing-impaired athlete who plays for multiple sports team and moved from school to school as a kid, Chileen has to teach her coaches the best way to communicate with her. It’s a challenge, but Chileen hasn’t let her hearing loss impact her play on the field or court.
As a junior for the Blaine softball team last year, Chileen had a batting average above .400. Her play caught the attention of college scouts, and Chileen has since committed to the University of Mary in Bismarck, North Dakota.
Chileen has always used softball to help normalize things. But even on the diamond, she has to work a little harder to be successful.
“There’s some challenges,” Chileen said. “With some coaches especially, you have to tell them to look at you when they’re calling signals. In softball it helps because you do some hand signals anyway. But when they’re yelling out something, it’s a challenge. But my coaches and teammates are used to it.”
Without her hearing aids, Chileen has moderate-to-severe hearing loss in both ears. With them, it’s moderate to mild. Her dad, Greg Chileen, estimates Kasidy was around 2 to 3 years old when they noticed she wasn’t responding normally.
Diagnosed with hearing loss, the challenges grew as Kasidy got older. She went through the Anoka-Hennepin School District and had classes with five to seven hearing-impaired students. One year, Kasidy threw her hearing aids out the bus window because she wanted to be like the other kids. Another time, she was bumped by a moving car while walking around her neighborhood.
“I had so many different schools I had to go to just for different programs for my hearing loss,” Kasidy said. “There were so many different combinations I had to deal with, with teachers and school work. I had to get notes from teachers. Always trying to repeat teachers. That was just for school. I had to work harder than I usually would.”
Living in Brooklyn Center, Kasidy went to middle school in Coon Rapids and now attends Blaine High School. Once at Blaine, the Chileens had a choice whether she should mainstream or not, meaning being around all the other students in a regular-sized classroom. They decided it would be best and Kasidy’s accustomed class size of five to seven grew to 30.
It’s been sports that has allowed Kasidy to grow her friend group. Along with softball, she has competed in volleyball, cross country and tried Nordic skiing for the first time this year.
“I think sports has helped me make friends,” Kasidy said. “I made a lot of friends through sports. People respect me a lot when I play with them and we’re kind of the same.”
Her 21 hits last season tied her for fifth most on the Blaine team.
“It’s just been fun to watch,” Greg said. “She’s hardworking. She has played on a lot of different teams. Everywhere she goes, she has responded well. She is a great self-advocate and almost has to teach the coaches with every team we go to. You have to tell the coach there’s certain things they have to do, such as looking at her while talking.”
With a 3.5 GPA, Kasidy has a full scholarship to UMary between academics and athletics. She said she clicked well with the coaches and enjoyed the campus visit. What sealed the deal, though, was UMary starting an audiology program.
Kasidy wants to pursue a career as an audiologist to help people with hearing loss the way she has been helped.
She believes what she learned not just in the classroom, but in sports, has helped ease the challenges of living with hearing loss.
“Ever since I’ve been in softball and having that challenge, I’ve come away more confident,” Kasidy said. “Confidence is key.”