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Daisy's level playing field

Photo: Playing football has helped Daisy’s confidence

Daisy (10) is moderately deaf and has struggled with low confidence and self-esteem. A series of achievements in football as well as moving to a more supportive school have helped her believe in herself again.

Daisy is a talented young sportsperson with an impressive set of achievements not only in her favourite sport of football, but also in cross country, hockey and swimming. But a few years ago, Daisy wasn’t in a happy place. She felt under-valued at school and was suffering from a severe lack of self-confidence. “She told me that she felt ‘worthless’,” remembers mum Tracy-anne. “She was actually non-verbal at her old school.”

Daisy wasn’t diagnosed as deaf until she was four and it was a battle for Tracy-anne to get the diagnosis at all. Although there were some complications during her birth, Daisy was fine as a baby except for not sleeping for more than 10–30 minutes at a time.

“I’d been saying to the health visitors that she can’t talk and I don’t think she can hear,” says Tracy-anne. “And they kept saying, ‘It’s just development; she’ll be fine.’

Eventually, because of the sleep issues, I contacted The Children’s Sleep Charity and we got admitted to Sheffield Children’s Hospital. They confirmed she was suffering from severe sleep apnoea, meaning she was stopping breathing 20 times per night.” While under their care, Tracy-anne mentioned her concerns about Daisy’s hearing and they tested her right away and confirmed she was moderately deaf.

Because of the late diagnosis and the fact that she has a high palate, Daisy’s speech remained behind her peers, causing her anxiety. “When Daisy was in reception she had speech and language therapy every day, but when the cuts came in, we lost everything,” remembers Tracy-anne. “School had to start funding things and soon enough there was no more speech and language therapy.”

Playing football

One positive to come from Daisy being at that school was her introduction to football, when a football coach came to give a session. “They talked her in to having a go,” says Tracy-anne.

“They came to see me afterwards, saying Daisy wouldn’t tell them which team she plays with. I said, ‘She’s never played football in her life.’ They said she was unbelievable.”

This led Daisy to start playing football regularly, playing in a few different clubs before being signed by a local football club last summer. It’s a mainstream club but with a few small adaptations, she gets along just fine.

“Her coaches wear a radio aid,” Tracy-anne explains. “They always make sure she knows exactly what’s going on. They don’t sign and we’ve never brought up the subject of signing but they automatically use hand gestures with all the team.”

Daisy’s swimming and hockey clubs are also inclusive. “At swimming galas, because she doesn’t hear the pistol fire, one of the coaches crouches down and taps her leg,” says Tracy-anne.

Boosting confidence

Tracy-anne believes that being involved in football has helped Daisy’s confidence. “When she’s on the football pitch she feels she’s on a very level playing field; she knows she’s as good as the others. I think she feels like she’s got something to prove so she always tries that little bit harder. Because her speech isn’t great, she thinks people think she’s stupid. But in a lot of respects, that’s what pushes and motivates her.”

Due to her hard work at football, many opportunities have opened up for Daisy. She’s involved with Manchester City Football Club and has been a mascot for the women’s and deaf women’s teams. Stephanie Houghton, women’s captain of Manchester City and England was kind enough to send Daisy a video message before her 10th birthday. “She said, ‘I know it’s your birthday next week; you’re coming to have a party and we can’t wait to see you,’” says Tracy-anne. Daisy has also been a mascot for England Deaf Men’s Football Team.

Daisy has made a great connection in Claire Stancliffe, captain of England Deaf Women’s Football Team.

“When it was the Deaflympics we started following the deaf women’s football matches and I bought Daisy the football kit,” remembers Tracy-anne. “I took a picture of her posing in it and tweeted it to Claire. She tweeted that she wanted to send Daisy something and we received a package containing her captain’s armband, signed, and a photo and letter. She’s kept in touch too.” Through Claire, Daisy was offered an opportunity to feature in She Kicks magazine.

But while Daisy was excelling at football, she was still having issues with confidence. “She’s actually very shy,” says Tracy-anne. “She really struggles with self-esteem, even when she’s successful.”

Moving schools

Tracy-anne puts a lot of these issues down to Daisy’s school and their attitude towards her deafness. “They refused to use her radio aid or engage with her Teacher of the Deaf,” she explains. So, in late 2017, Tracy-anne took the difficult decision to move Daisy to a different school.

With the support of her new headteacher, Daisy’s confidence has come on leaps and bounds and she has taken on many new activities. “The new school has changed her life,” smiles Tracy-anne. “She has started cross country running and hockey, she does drama, plays piano and sings in the choir. Two weeks after starting, she sang a solo.”

Unsurprisingly, Daisy’s ambition is to become a professional footballer. “She wants to play for England, or Manchester City,” says Tracy-anne. Daisy’s parents are just happy that she has something that makes her so happy. “As time’s gone on and we’ve realised she’s quite good, we’ve got more supportive,” adds Tracy-anne.