For our Friday Feature today, we are bringing our focus on a great initiative began a few years ago by Wendy Russell, an English Coach at Brighton & Hove Hockey Club. We are featuring excepts from an article initially featured on the England Hockey website, where Coach Russell explains her motivations for starting the club and the practical hurdles that came to light during the early days of the club. We applaud Coach Russell’s initiative which shows us that hockey truly is for everyone! #Hockey4All

Wendy Russell has revolutionised the way deaf or hard of hearing young people take part in hockey. Prior to the start of her work there were no clubs running sessions for deaf or hard of hearing people. When the sessions began, they were the only ones of their kind in the whole of Great Britain. Russell explains the reasoning behind getting the sessions off the ground: “In Sussex the only deaf only sports groups were football, cricket and multi-sports groups. If deaf people wanted to take part in any other sports they have to go to hearing clubs. For many deaf young people interacting with hearing players by attending hearing clubs can be intimidating and so deaf only clubs are a great way to encourage people to be more active.” she adds “I decided that I wanted to develop hockey sessions for deaf only players. I applied for Sportivate Funding and started Hove Hockey Hot Stars; sessions specifically for deaf players, their friends and family.

With funding in place and armed with her knowledge as a qualified England Hockey Coach, she seemed well set to get the sessions started, however the absence of any British Sign Language (BSL) signs specific to hockey she encountered a problem that would definitely need to be overcome: “I searched the internet to see whether there were any existing signs language to support the delivery of hockey and found that the only sign which existed was for the word hockey its self. I decided that to be able to communicate with players we needed to develop some specific sign languageI worked with a deaf media company; local deaf and sensory units and local schools to create over 40 hockey specific signs to enable club volunteers to use during sessions. Although I am partially deaf, before starting these sessions I had little knowledge of sign language. I found that the signs created were simple to learn and use as many mimic the action of the skill its self plus I learnt a lot from the players themselves.” The hockey specific signs are available online Deaf Friendly Hockey Signs.

The hockey specific sign language is being used by UK deaf sport, National Deaf Children’s Society (NDCS) and England Hockey, and will be used across the country. Teachers, coaches and participants now have access to hockey terminology across the UK, and are now in a position to facilitate other deaf or hard of hearing people to play hockey.

Has your club or nation began its own ParaHockey or Disability Hockey chapter? If so, let us know! Email: info@eurohockey.org

Source and photograph: England Hockey

Original source article: Double Delight for hockey Coach Russell