Sound Off

By Rebekah Sager
Photos by Brevin Blach

Amid 65,000 cheering fans, advertising airplanes circling overhead and Queen's "We Will Rock You" blaring over the loudspeakers, game day at Qualcomm Stadium can get pretty loud...except for Charger Girl Melissa Adams.

"I shy away from big crowds and try to stay in more one-on-one situations, except for football games," says Adams, who lost nearly 90 percent of her hearing as a child.

A devout Jets fan until seven years ago-when she moved to San Diego from New York to marry her husband, Nick, with whom she runs a Web design and development company-Adams tried out for the NFL cheerleading squad six times before finally making the cut last season, but it wasn't auditory limitations that prevented her success on previous outings.

"You've gotta' wear bling to get noticed; I learned that," she says. "I was wearing a bright orange top the year I made it."

Because of her impairment, Adams has had to memorize all of the Charger Girl dance routines. Unable to hear the music, she relies on innate rhythm and occasional signals from teammates when the music stops, plus an extensive background in ballet.

Life off the field, it seems, is what poses the biggest challenge for this dancing star.

"I get a little frustrated in social situations," she says. "I may not hear the joke, and it can prevent me from fully being myself."

Like all of the 28 women who dance for the Chargers, Adams will have to re-audition for the team each year-and each year, as her hearing diminishes still further, doctors remain unable to pinpoint a diagnosis.

Yet, despite the adversity (and the Chargers losing record), this is one Bolt who won't be stopped.

"I go into situations and adapt," Adams says. "I don't view my hearing loss as a hardship; I can't change my life. I'm willing to jump through hoops for what I want."

 

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