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Team sports

Photo: Taking part in team sports is a great way to make friends, have fun and build new skills.

Joining a new sports team can be exciting for lots of young people but for many deaf children there can be challenges when it comes to communication and wearing hearing technology. Your child doesn’t have to miss out because they’re deaf. Simple adjustments can make team sports accessible and offer your child a brilliant experience.

Tony’s son Harrison (13) developed sporting skills his hearing teammates don’t have because of his moderate to severe deafness.

“One of Harrison’s biggest strengths is that he reads the game so well, and that’s probably a result of his hearing loss. He’s always had to engage visually with what’s going on, more than the other players, because he can’t rely on being able to hear. That’s become his real strength – he has a great instinct for what’s going to unfold and can recognise dangers in the game very quickly.”

Here are some practical tips to help your deaf child get the most out of team sports.

Check out the venue

Look around the venue where practice and matches take place with your child to check out the listening conditions. Some venues may have slightly better acoustics than with less background noise or echoing. You can find out more about what makes a good listening environment here.

Meet the sports coach and other staff

Let sports coaches know in advance that your child is deaf and what support they will require. Take time to discuss the best communication methods and involve your child in the conversation. If your child needs a British Sign Language (BSL) interpreter, discuss this with the sports coach first so they can get everything in place.

Phil discussed adjustments his daughter Jodie (17), who is profoundly deaf, needed with her rugby coaches.

“All of Jodie’s coaches have been really good with her. Her first coach had never coached a deaf player before, but I explained some adjustments they could make; explain things face-to-face before sending her onto the field, don’t shout instructions into the wind and rain, verify she’s understood you.”

Tony and his son Harrison (13) also get support from the FA’s deaf team coaches.

“One of the FA’s deaf team coaches regularly gets in touch with us and Harrison’s coaches. He also visits regularly to speak to the coaches about how best to help Harrison and to make sure they’re fully deaf aware.”

You could also see if the coach or any of their staff would be interested in receiving our Deaf Awareness Training or signing up to our Deaf Friendly Standard. We can provide information, resources and training to organisations that focuses on the small and simple steps organisations can take to become deaf-friendly. For more information email [email protected].

Discuss communication and technology

Let sports coaches know about simple ways they can make sure your child doesn’t miss anything and feels included.

  • Most sports can be taught in a visual way. Suggest the coach uses actions, gestures or flags instead of a whistle or shouting.
  • When the coach is delivering instructions, ask them to face your child and check they’ve understood. Being in a large circle is a better way for deaf children and young people to be able to see and communicate with everyone in the group.
  • If your child has a radio aid, ask the coach to wear it while they’re leading the session.

Tracey-anne’s daughter Daisy (10) is part of a football club and her coaches make sure to use technology and communicate in a deaf-friendly way.

“Her coaches wear a radio aid. 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.”

Encourage your child to speak up

It’s important that you child feels like they can tell their coach if they’ve missed anything during their practices or matches.

Jodie (17) always lets her rugby coach know if she’s missed something.

“If I don’t hear something now, I just go up to my coach and tell them. I didn’t always feel confident to go up to a coach and say ‘Sorry, I didn’t hear that,’ but now I’ve started to realise that if I haven’t heard, it’s going to make me look bad on the pitch.”

Tracy-anne, mum to Daisy (10), saw the confidence boost football gave her daughter.

“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.”

Find smaller clubs or teams

Your child may benefit from being in a smaller group. They may also feel more comfortable joining a team with friends or children they know who are already deaf aware.

Sports and hearing technology

If your child is interested in a contact sport, such as rugby, you might be worried about their cochlear implant or hearing aids getting damaged. Speak to your audiologist or a hearing technology specialist. They will be able to advise if there’s any equipment or certain kinds of helmets that will allow your child to wear their technology and protect it for them. For example, they could wear a scrumcap during rugby games.

If your child does need to remove their hearing aid or cochlear implant whilst playing, ask the coach to explain instructions before they take them off.

Harrison (13) used to have trouble with his hearing aids when playing football but now he has waterproof ones.

“I wear my hearing aids to play, but my old set weren’t waterproof. If it was raining, they would turn off and I wouldn’t hear a thing. I learnt to read the body language of the coaches and other players and I still do this now, even with my water-resistant hearing aids. It can really help if it’s windy, for example."