Award for teacher who set up deaf hockey club


On Tuesday December 1 Wendy Russell, Steyning Grammar School PE teacher and hockey coach attended the Sports Coach UK Awards in Manchester where she won the ‘Disability Coach of the Year Award’.

The UK Coaching Awards honour sports coaches and organisations that have demonstrated outstanding success over the last 12 months, and are seen as one of the most prestigious within the coaching community. This award has been won for revolutionising the way deaf or hard of hearing young people take part in hockey, achieved by creating a hockey-specific sign language.

This came after discovering that only 11.5% of deaf young people do sport outside of PE. The reason many gave was because they had to go to hearing clubs, and a lot of them felt isolated because they needed extra support; and also that people didn’t know how to interact with them. Wendy wanted to set up a hockey club that was for deaf people only so that they could feel included and safe within that environment, so applied for and gained funding to run a Deaf Hockey Sportivate project in Brighton. This is the first deaf hockey club in Great Britain.

In order to communicate with the youngsters a new hockey-specific sign language was developed. Wendy explained: “The only sign I could find was for naming the actual sport hockey, so I needed to create 30 others that would allow me quickly to not only explain what we were doing and working on, but also how to give feedback to the players.”

This remarkable new sign language has now been ratified by Remark and endorsed by the National Deaf Children’s Society (NDCS). This is also now being rolled out by UK Deaf Sport, NDCS and England Hockey, and will be used across the country by teachers and participants.

Wendy has also won the Sussex Sports Award Sportivate Project of the Year and was shortlisted in the top 5 for the ‘Community Award’ in The Sunday Times & Sky Sports News Sportswoman of the Year Awards. Wendy is an England Hockey Level 2 coach and also a regional hockey coach as well as an Active Sussex coach mentor and a Project 500 (more women more coaches) ambassador for Sussex.

Nick Wergan, Headteacher Steyning Grammar School said: “We are delighted and proud for Wendy, this is well deserved. It is great to see the dedication of our fantastic staff being recognised; great teaching, alongside purposeful practice and self motivation, enables students to reach their full potential. Wendy’s work embodies this commitment in and outside school.”

Report and picture contributed by Steyning Grammar School.