Deaf Awareness Week: Sporting role models

May 2019

Women in Sport has teamed up with UK Deaf Sport to celebrate Deaf Awareness Week from 6 to 12 May. We’ll be sharing case studies from some of the sporting role models who are doing great work in their communities.

First up, Jane Cosgrove, Level 3 British Gymnastics coach, qualified to teach Women’s Artistic, Pre School Gymnastics and Trampolining. Jane works at Phoenix Gymnastics Club in Maidenhead.

“Deaf Awareness week means a lot to me. Now that I have first hand experience of teaching a young deaf child it has shown me how much of a difference we can make. While teaching at one particular school I was glad to see that the children are now learning Makaton as part of their year 2 studies. I believe learning sign language should be more widely promoted within the curriculum.

“Just over a year ago a parent of one of our squad members expressed her sadness at the fact that her youngest child couldn’t take part in our pre school gym classes due to severely impaired hearing, Although Ellie has cochlear implants, they make little difference to her hearing as she also suffers with auditory neuropathy. Ellie had just turned 3 and seeing how talented her sister is I felt that it would be such a shame to not give Ellie a try in our classes. Initially I asked her mother to be our interpreter during classes. However it quickly became evident that we really didn’t need her. Ellie is very good at watching and copying, which is they key to picking up those basic skills in a pre school environment. Using the Sign BSL mobile application I began to learn rudimentary sign language. Delighted that I had started to sign with her, Ellie started to sign back and rapidly exhausted my meagre vocabulary!

“Ellie came along for a trampolining trial with me, which she loved. Knowing that she would be having classes with me made me realise that using an app for ad hoc words was not going to be enough. I felt that I owed it to Ellie to take things a little further so I signed up for the BSL level 1 course. My colleague Sarah, who also coaches Ellie, decided that she would like to do the same. We have both started the course. It is tough, especially when the only person we can really practice on is Ellie and we only see her once a week.

“In the gym we have the BSL alphabet on the wall along with laminates showing common words. For trampolining I have laminates with some of the basic trampolining moves that I can use in conjunction with signing.

“Teaching someone without hearing is definitely a challenge, but I’m so pleased that we have chosen to do so. Making a difference to someone’s life, who would have been otherwise excluded. That’s job satisfaction.

“Top tips for other coaches when supporting a deaf child include the following: We never know when a deaf child/individual will enter our lives. I see this as a way to enhance not just their lives but also your own. By learning even just a few simple sign language words, that individual will know that you care.”