Fun, football and friendships were the order of the day as young, aspiring deaf footballers gathered at Toryglen Regional Football Centre in Glasgow for the annual Deaf Football Festival. Sport First went to find out more about this exciting and inclusive project.
About 50 secondary-school children and their teachers gathered pitch-side at the venue, eagerly awaiting their chance to try out each of the skills stations.
The first part of the day was all about trying the different drills, testing their goalscoring abilities and learning from the coaches. Communication supporters and interpreters were on hand to support British Sign Language users.
After a break for lunch, it was game time and the players' new skills were put to use in four simultaneous games of fast, fun football. Excitement levels were high and everyone enjoyed the day, with new friendships forged and great memories made.
The key to success
A strong team approach, placing the deaf children at the centre of the plans, has enabled this Festival to grow over the past five years.
Kenny Fraser, a Teacher of the Deaf based in Ayrshire, and John Brown, Scottish FA Regional Manager for the South West region, have collaborated to ensure there is an opportunity for young deaf people across the West and South West of Scotland to enjoy football with their peers, while developing friendships in a supported and professional environment.
Kenny's links to the West of Scotland Deaf Children's Society and local Teachers of the Deaf, together with the strength of the Scottish FA's regional network and focus on inclusive football development, have enabled hundreds of deaf children to enjoy the 'beautiful game'.
Learning new skills
Coaching the young people were the Cashback for Communities Volunteer Inspire Project (VIP) team, who gained valuable experience in coaching deaf children, enhanced by their deaf awareness training from Kenny Fraser, which included football related vocabulary, advice on stance, communication and body language.
Each year, VIP recruits 180 participants aged between 16 and 24 from schools, community groups, clubs and existing youth development projects and places them in an individually developed learning pathway, including coaching courses, administration skills, physiotherapy and governance skills.
The success of the Festivals is permeating at a local level, with clubs and community sport hubs engaging to develop their own activities for deaf young people. One such club, Dean Thistle FC, part of New Farm community sport hub in Kilmarnock, has been developing regular deaf-friendly training sessions, and embracing the inclusive mindset to encourage new memberships.
John Brown, said: “Many of these children attend mainstream schools where they are often one of only a handful of deaf children, so these festivals let them enjoy physical activity in an environment catering for that specific disability.
"The festivals run annually, but a number of clubs have set up Deaf Football sections stemming from their popularity, which provides regular activity for children that previously would not have frequently engaged in sport."
Find out more
A football festival for deaf children (P1-P7) is planned for the end of May at Kilmarnock FC, aiming to build on last year's strong turnout of 150 children. For more information on the Festival, contact Kenny Fraser.