Two years ago, my Deaf son came home from his mainstream football training in tears. He had been at that club nearly a year and said that he didn’t know anyone, that they didn’t help him get involved and he never got picked for the team. I had done what I could with deaf awareness training and getting NDCS coaching information, but it hurt me that he didn’t feel involved. So I set up Morecambe Deaf Friendly football.
So, as part of my local deaf children’s society, I applied for and received a grant to start some football skills sessions for deaf kids.
With the grant money in the bank, we based ourselves at Morecambe Football Club because we thought this would encourage more kids to come along. The first session was a festival at the Globe arena, which is the name of Morcambe’s Stadium. We had a tour of the stadium, we played football and did a skills session with Deaf GB Ladies player Jessica Everhurst and then we watched the Morecambe match. The following Friday we had 24 kids sign up.
This year is our third year, and the kids love it. They have an hour on the 3G pitch at Morecambe on a Friday evening and we have two coaches that work with them, but there is something missing from their lives. And its competitive deaf football.
After setting up Morecambe Deaf Friendly FC (as we are currently known) I saw the difficulties in playing football in competitions. There is only the NDCS tournament in March and a deaf schools tournament and that is it! The rest is mainstream.
Now, I have nothing against mainstream football but I do realise some deaf like to mix within their own culture. I was invited to attend a new group called the Deaf Youth Football Development Group, which involves all the home nation FA groups, plus various other sporting and deaf groups including UK Deaf sport and Men and Ladies GB Deaf football. One area we are trying to get developed are the pathways that young deaf people can take within football – but all the pathways and funding was for 12-14 years upwards, so what about the younger players?
This also got me thinking …. How hard is it to run some football?
So I created a North West mini-football league for deaf kids aged 8-16. We had a pilot day near Manchester in February where 30 deaf kids turned up to play four matches each … and they loved it. At the end of September we had a date at Liverpool Soccer Goals centre, donated by Everton FC, where we had around 25 deaf kids and this week we have our last event until February donated by Manchester City.
We have called the sessions Deaf Friendly Football Festivals – North West, or DeaFFF NW. We have had interest from groups in Blackpool, Bolton, Liverpool, Everton, Salford, and as far afield as Bradford and Leeds enquiring if they can attend.
It isn’t just teams that can enter. We had a couple of individuals come along and we put them into teams and they enjoyed themselves too. In fact the beaming grins on the kids playing and the comments from their parents showed that everyone enjoyed themselves.
I am trying to organise four or five of these sessions on an annual basis around the North West so people from different areas can come to at least one session if travel is an problem. I have valuable support and knowledge from Andrew Brady, who is Everton’s disability Development Officer in setting up this project and we are talking to a number of deaf individuals that may be able to come along as deaf role models and inspire the next generation.
I have been unable to secure any funding and so am relying on free venues and volunteers for support, but I hope we can make people see that the kids enjoy it and there is a need to do something to involve younger deaf players.
If you know of a group that would be interested in playing at one of these events or would like more information about our deaf football or want to sponsor a session please contact me via firstname.lastname@example.org or 01524 793248.
Vicki Galt is married to Owen and lives near Lancaster with their three brilliant kids. James is 13 and is profoundly deaf with an implant and a hearing aid. Damian is 10 and is severely deaf and wears two hearing aids and Madison is 6 and hearing.
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