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Deaf-friendly football coaching

There are lots of ways you can adapt football activities to make communication easier so deaf children can enjoy football just as much as their hearing peers.

What's on this page? Summary in British Sign Language (BSL)

Adapting the football environment

Football pitches or training facilities can make verbal communication challenging, especially for deaf children who use hearing aids or cochlear implants.

  • Limit distractions by using quiet areas of the training ground.
  • Make sure the pitch is well lit. Light should shine on your face, not from behind you.
  • Make assistant footballers, coaches and receptionists aware that a deaf child is attending.
  • Make sure everyone knows what to do in an emergency, and agree a visual signal.
  • Create visual signs for toilets, showers and changing rooms.

Top tips for football coaches


  • Ask the child or young person how they prefer to communicate.
  • Get the deaf child’s attention before speaking or signing – try waving your hand or a training cone.
  • Stay in one place and keep eye contact.
  • Demonstrate to help children understand what to do.
  • Use pre-agreed visual signals for different actions during games or training.
  • Allow time for players to take off or put on hearing technology if required.
  • Use visual aids such as photos, pictures, or wipe-off boards.


  • Speak too slowly or shout! This will distort your lip patterns.
  • Move around the pitch when you’re talking.
  • Cover your mouth or talk with your whistle in your mouth.
  • Talk and demonstrate at the same time.
  • Give up. Try explaining differently, write it down, use pictures or demonstrate.

Make sure all staff in your centre are practicing good deaf awareness. Even using basic sign language can have a huge impact on deaf children and their families.

Further information

Do's and don'ts of coaching a deaf player

Simple tips for coaching deaf athletes. Credits: Writer, Director, Video Co-editor: Kira E. Video Co-Editor, Audio Engineer, Videographer: David L.

Working with an interpreter or communication support worker

If you’re working with a sign language interpreter or other communication support worker, here are some tips:

  • Remember that the deaf child needs to see both you and the interpreter.
  • Keep eye contact with the child even if the ‘voice’ is coming from the interpreter.
  • The deaf child can’t watch an activity and their interpreter at the same time. Allow time for the interpreter to finish and for the deaf child to reply.
  • Use your own communication skills to build a rapport with the deaf child.
  • Share the session plan with the communication worker or interpreter in advance and explain any football jargon.


If you’re a referee, you may come across deaf players when officiating matches. You may not need to change anything, but have a discussion with the manager and deaf child beforehand. Take the following into consideration: 

  • Make the deaf player is looking directly at you before talking to them. 
  • Use a brightly coloured bib on the pitch to signal when play needs to stop. 
  • Raise the flag at the same time as blowing the whistle. 
  • Ask the assistant referees to raise their flags when the whistle is blown. 
  • Be patient if the player does not react to the whistle immediately. 
  • Use visual representations when actions are required (such as a throw in).