Pioneering deaf hockey club founder receives award from Prime Minister

Wendy Russell, a senior coach at Brighton and Hove Hockey Club
Wendy Russell, a senior coach at Brighton and Hove Hockey Club

A senior coach at Brighton and Hove Hockey Club has been recognised by Prime Minister Theresa May for setting up the UK’s first deaf hockey club.

Wendy Russell received a Points of Light award, which are handed to outstanding individual volunteers, and people who are making a change in their community.

Wendy set up the UK’s first deaf hockey club and has created her own hockey-specific sign language.

She is partially deaf herself, and wanted to make hockey more accessible for partially and profoundly deaf children. Her hockey club is the first of its kind in the UK and has given many of its players the confidence to join in matches alongside hearing players.

On realising that there was no specific sign language for hockey terminology, Wendy set about creating 40 new signs, allowing her to communicate with and coach the children directly.

Useful signs have included raising flags instead of blowing whistles. Wendy’s new signs are now fully accredited and have been rolled out nationally through the National Deaf Children’s Society, UK Deaf Sport and England Hockey.

In a letter to Wendy, the Prime Minister said: “Your pioneering work has had a transformational impact on the sport of deaf hockey. You have made hockey more accessible for partially and profoundly deaf children, giving them the opportunity to enjoy the sport.”

Wendy said: “This is something I thoroughly enjoy doing, and love seeing the young people I coach enjoying themselves. They make me laugh and giggle the entire time I am coaching them, come rain or shine! I am very excited and privileged to receive this award. As I believe everyone should be able to play and take part in any sport no matter level, disability or gender.

“I set up this group in the hopes that it would enable the young deaf people in the area to have more choice about the sports they could access, but in an environment that catered for their needs. I also wanted anyone who was deaf or had hearing impairment to be able to feel supported at any hockey club across the county, and to love hockey and more importantly being active.”