I got involved in deaf football coaching when I noticed that there were no other deaf players in the local football league division that my son played in. No other deaf players on any opposing team all season. That’s not right? I thought. I knew that there were hundreds of deaf children in the area but for some reason, they weren’t playing the beautiful game.
After a couple of meetings with local football leaders, some like-minded people, recruitment of some coaches and bit of local promotion, we had a dozen kids coming along to our deaf-friendly football training. Deaf friendly football for us is making sure that we have signed-support and all the kids understand the instructions before we do any training exercises. Communication is paramount.
Since then, the deaf-friendly training has been incorporated into Peterborough United’s Foundation so our boys and girls can say proudly that they play for Peterborough United. I love that.
So, it’s good that we have deaf friendly coaching in Peterborough. Not only is the coaching good for developing football skills, but it encourages fitness and a healthier lifestyle, both of which are important for combating obesity and poor health in later life. Learning social skills, developing friendships, learning about commitment to a team and how to win and lose are all benefits too.
There is a lot to be said for encouraging children to take up sports. More hearing children than ever are playing football every weekend but where are the deaf children playing? Well, the truth is that most of them are probably not.
I wager that there will be thousands of deaf boys and girls who would love to be playing football (or any sport) this weekend but won’t for one reason or another connected to their deafness.
Whether that’s because their parents couldn’t find a signer when they were smaller or they went along to training and the whole lot flew over their heads. Maybe the wind simply whooshed away everything the coach said or there is nothing for deaf kids locally; the result is that many deaf children, by the time they reach secondary school age, haven’t the confidence or ability to play along.
Playing football is as much about being of one of the team as it is to do with the sport itself. Deaf kids who do play in mainstream football have got to be single minded and thick skinned not to let the communication barrier get in the way, stay positive and be one of the team. For all these reasons, I say too many deaf kids are missing out on the enjoyment of sport and its health benefits.
And that’s why something more needs to happen so one day we can find a deaf professional footballer to inspire our deaf boys and girls. Every professional football club should try and establish deaf-friendly football for boys and girls of all ages. If they can’t do that, then they could look for partners and run joint schemes. Deaf children are everywhere and so should be their sporting opportunities.
Football should not be about communication barriers. Deaf-friendly coaching at a young age will be the only way we can get more deaf players into the mainstream game and hopefully have vibrant and competitive deaf youth leagues.
Then one day, we might see a Premier League player who lets his hands, as well as boots, do the talking.
Update: Some deaf footy facts have come in
— Nick Beese (@ndbeese) November 12, 2013
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