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Football club’s support for deaf players is celebrated

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Sport Wales is marking Deaf Awareness Week (6-12 May) by celebrating the work of a Deeside football club that has the motto, ‘Every child should play’.

Shotton United Town Junior Football Club were founded eight years ago by Brian Valentine and a few other parents who wanted to offer a proper grassroots football experience where all children could enjoy playing, whatever their background or ability.

All of the club’s coaches have been trained in deaf awareness so that they are skilled in how to adapt their training sessions to include members who are hard of hearing, or deaf.

Their coaches include Brian’s 13-year-old son Dylan, who is also deaf. 

Brian said: “Before we created Shotton United Town JFC, we struggled to find a club that could fully cater for Dylan’s needs. He has loved playing for the club and is now thoroughly enjoying coaching younger players too. 

“Our ethos here is to deliver inclusive football so that everyone can enjoy the game, regardless of any additional needs they may have. We just want the kids to be out there having fun, and this year we’ve taken on an extra 90 children.

“A football pitch is a noisy environment, and that noise is amplified for someone who uses a hearing aid. But by making some simple adaptations to your communication style, you can make sure that everyone feels fully part of your football sessions.

“For example, making eye contact and grabbing someone’s attention before speaking or signing is important. Be aware that if you shout or speak too slowly then this will affect your lip patterns for someone who lip reads, while it can be harder to understand you if you’re moving around a lot while you’re talking.

“Being deaf aware and able to do basic sign language are great skills for any person to have.” 

Shotton United Town JFC were recently awarded £3,882 by Sport Wales’ Be Active Wales Fund – which uses money from the National Lottery – to help them buy some much needed equipment as well as to pay for further coaching courses so that they can continue to upskill their volunteers to deliver person-centred football.

Owen Hathway, Sport Wales’ Assistant Director for Insight, Policy and Public Affairs, said: “Everyone should be able to enjoy the benefits of sport so it’s great to see how Shotton United Town JFC are making sure that all of their participants’ needs are met and that no-one is left excluded. This is the fourth year in a row that the club has been awarded money through the Be Active Wales Fund and we are delighted to be able to support the amazing work that they do.” 

Brian added: “The Be Active Wales Fund has been vital for us as a club, from helping us to buy the equipment we needed to start up back in 2015, to paying for courses that have developed our volunteers as coaches.” 

Thanks to players of the National Lottery, more than £30 million a week goes to good causes across the UK through initiatives such as Sport Wales’ Be Active Wales Fund. Find out more about the Be Active Wales Fund below.

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