Is the future looking brighter for British Deaf athletes?

Been a while since my last post; took a break as things were getting rather depressing with regards to the governance of Deaf sport internationally.

But there was some good news today from UK Deaf Sport on the performance funding support given to Deaf world swimming champion Danielle Joyce. This groundbreaking decision by Sterling University to recognise the achievements and potential of british Deaflympians suggests that the future could be promising for deaf children and young people who aspire to be high performance athletes.

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 Joyce, a first year student at Sterling University receives funding support and academic flexibility to enable her coaches to design the preparation programme that is going to give her the best chances of performing at the highest level in both her sport and studies.

The Winning Students scholarships are an annual award available to full-time and part-time students at college or university. The funding can be used to cover costs that ease the burden of being able to concentrate fully on training and studies without the negativity that comes with the pressures of having to raise funds. The scholarship can be used to cover accommodation, competition fees and sports equipment.

By working with Scottish Governing Bodies of Sport and sportscotland Institute of Sport the grant funding complements other existing forms of support. The scholarship has eleven core sports and the governing bodies nominate students for awards whilst the Individual Scholarships offer athletes in other sports the chance to get support.

UK Deaf Sport Ambassador Joyce is adapting to a new programme and has been told that she should not expect any big improvements immediately. But she is already reaping the benefits that have eluded so many of her deaf peers. Her preparations for the World Deaf Swimming Championships are already on track for the 17th – 22nd August in San Antonio, Texas.

The scholarship is available to:

  • British passport holders and able to compete for either Scotland or Great Britain
  • Studying or set to study at a college/university in the Winning Students network
  • 16 to 35 years olds for disabled athlete scholarships and the upper age limits are flexible.
  • Athletes who meet sporting criteria outlined for each sport.

Schools and sports clubs should now be identifying talented deaf athletes and working together with UK Deaf Sport and national governing bodies to put forward applications to Winning Students in order that young deaf people can now take the chance to realise their sporting dreams.

10 Reasons why Russia won the game.

Last Tuesday, ice hockey officials awarded a highly controversial last-second goal to Russia, which has most likely denied the Americans the opportunity to compete in the Deaflympic gold medal match today.

Rules of sport are always complicated and fraught with difficulty. But it s also the responsibility of competition organisers to ensure that the selection of tournament officials is done correctly in order to avoid any doubt when it comes to the interpretation of rules.

The controversial goal has been analysed from different angles by television and amateur video footage. The Americans submitted the initial protest within the 30-minute window. When the result came back still in favour of the goal, the Americans lodged an appeal – this too was overruled despite overwhelming evidence in favour of America.

You can see the video evidence for yourself here. Thanks to “Juciermk”

Two days ago, Two Big Ears consulted with their own contacts in Ice Hockey, who are independent from Deaf sport. Their conclusion is that the referee’s decision is final.

Now, normally, we would move on and chalk it all down to experience. But not on this occasion, because the Americans are now waking up and coming to terms with what it is really like to get into bed with the Russians. The official USA Winter Deaflympic news service believes “This event will most certainly result in continued discussions, and hopefully changes so that other teams so not suffer similar injustices in future events.”

Based on the evidence presented to us, the conclusion is that, as long as Russia is in charge of the Deaflympics, the ICSD will allow mismanagement to continue. Host nations will continue to select tournament officials that swing decision-making in their favour. The Russians are not stupid, but they are arrogant, and corrupt deep within their national psyche. Here are the ten reasons why Russia beat America 6-5 on Tuesday evening.

1. HOST NATION-BIAS

The Russian government has invested heavily into Deaf sport and the Deaflympics. On the one hand this is to be applauded, and puts other nations such as the USA and the UK to shame. However, they are a nation whose politics, economy and sport is so heavily entrenched in corruption that they should not have been allowed to host in the first place. The Russian Deaf Sport Federation (RDSF) did not pay the required $25,000 registration fee when originally applying to host the games, this action contributing to the fiscal mess that the ICSD now find themselves in. Approval was only given once RDSF’s own people had taken over the asylum.

2. THE ICSD ARE NOT IN CHARGE.

First of all, evidence strongly demonstrates that the ICSD have lost control of the 13th Winter Deaflympics and the Russians are taking every advantage possible to ensure they win. Whilst Two Big Ears applauds Russia for working in partnership with non-deaf people to host the games, they are seen by others to have taken advantage of the controversial last-second goal to ensure that a team of veteran ice hockey professionals are not defeated by a young and upcoming team of American youngsters.

Secondly, sportsMX TV reported that ICSD President Rukhledev was brought in to mediate between the Russians and the Americans over the goal controversy. By participating in this way, Rukhledev and demonstrated yet again his incompetency to lead the Deaflympic movement;

a) He is the President and therefore cannot be involved with any disputes – but he chose to ignore this and carry on anyway.

b) He is Russian, so how was he going to make himself impartial to any decision-making? Why did he not instruct his neutral Vice President to attend the meeting instead?

c) It was the responsibility of the ICSD TD to resolve the dispute, not the President.

3. THE PROTEST COMMITTEE IS BIASED

The ICSD regulations allow the host (The Organising Committee) to choose who takes control of each sport. In this case, the Russians have appointed three of their own countrymen headed by well-known skating coach. Given reason 1 and 2, it is not surprising that the last-second goal could have been voted 3-1 against. The American protest and subsequent appeal has so far failed to extract “… a clear explanation as to why the goal was counted…” (official US Deaflympic media)

4. RUSSIANS DON’T DO COMPROMISE

According to the USA Deaflympic news reports, there have now been several days since the controversial result was made for officials to have made a correction. Either to have the two teas plan an overtime period, or just agree to a 5-5 tie. Sorry guys, that isn’t going to happen. This is the Russians you are dealing with.

5. RUSSIANS DO CORRUPTION AND CHEATING – IT IS BUSINESS AS USUAL

The Russian Deaf Sports Federation has been found guilty by a court of Law of falsifying an athlete’s audiogram to discredit him. The ICSD Congress has voted to ignore this and carry on. This is normal behaviour from Russians when it comes to participating internationally in sport and foreign policy, as the next two reasons will show:

6. DOPING IN SPORT IS A RUSSIAN NORM

The IAAF is struggling to find real evidence of doping amongst the ranks of Russian athletics. Good luck, it does not have the resources against the Russian system. The same goes for the ICSD, and the audiogram ‘doping’. And;

7. RUSSIAN TACTIC: DENIAL, DENIAL, DENIAL

When Russia invaded the Ukraine, they denied accusations that they had sent in their own troops to take control. When they had control of the Crimea, they clarified that “volunteers” had crossed the border. When faced with the clear evidence of audiogram fraud, they have remained silent and taken advantage of ICSD amateurism and distrust amongst nations to shield themselves from having to come clean.

8. IF THE RUSSIAN’S DON’T LIKE YOU…

One day you will be minding your own business, crossing a bridge and you will get shot from behind.

9. RUSSIANS BLAME OTHER PEOPLE:

  • The invasion of the Ukraine was not their fault
  • Shooting political activists is not their fault
  • Campaigning to overrule the early cancelation of the 2011 Winter Deaflympics, and then blaming others when it all fell apart is not their fault.
  • Concerns about audiogram cheating is just ‘sour grapes’

10. RUSSIANS TAKE CREDIT WHERE IT IS NOT DUE:

  • Contemporary recognition from IOC is not down to Rukhledev, it is thanks to Crowley’s diplomacy (2009-2013)
  • The concept of the International Deaflympic Committee is not Rukhledev’s idea. It was created during Ammons’ residency (pre 2009).
  • Russians have not contributed any beneficial actions to safeguard ICSD or the Deaflympics.

The world should not be surprised then, that the Russians have never been given the opportunity to lead, in any shape or form, a multinational sport federation, commercial entity or geopolitical organisation that includes Western nations. The ICSD Presidency has been a gift to the Russians to practice their imperialism and anti-IOC agenda.

A pity then that Russia has not taken the greatest opportunity to demonstrate good practice by ensuring that the Protest Committee of the ICSD Deaflympic Ice Hockey tournament was multi-national. Something that was well within their means to achieve to ensure that Olympic-level sports governance is transparent. Instead, they have chosen to play the game their way and have done the Deaflympic movement a further disservice by creating further controversy.

 

Deaflympic Congress votes to ignore fraudulent behaviour of the Russians.

Last week, at the 45th Congress of the International Committee of Sport for the Deaf, a proposal to discuss concerns about the Russia Committee of Deaf Sport (RCDS) being found guilty (by a Russian Court of Law) of submitting fraudulent audiograms was turned down and effectively ignored.

When put to a vote, 33 delegates were in favour of action, 5 against and 12 abstained. The motion needed 41 votes to gain a majority of 75% to proceed in accordance with the ICSD Constitution.

Staff employed by the RCDS falsified audiograms in 2011 to discredit an athlete. They were found guilty in a Russian Court of Law and another Court also overturned their subsequent appeal in 2014. Dimitry Rebrov, the current Chief Executive Officer of the ICSD, submitted the audiogram and Valery Rukhledev, now President of ICSD, was President of RCDS at the time.

The act of RCDS officials submitting fraudulent audiograms is on a par with Olympic officials submitting fraudulent doping specimens or test results or Paralympic officers submitting fraudulent disability classification assessments.

This raises the question; Do the 12 national representatives at the ICSD Congress who abstained actually understand the implications of the case? Was something amiss in translation? Did the proposers allocate sufficient time to ensure that everyone had read or understood their concerns?

When random testing in carried out at the Deaflympics, athletes whose hearing loss does not meet the audiogram standards are dismissed from competitions immediately. Job done.

But when a national federation is found guilty by a Court of Law of deliberately submitting a false audiogram to discredit an athlete – nothing is done.

Something is not right.

Tribute to Jack Henderson, Teacher.

Jack Henderson, who died on 28th February, was one of my teachers at Birkdale School for the Deaf, Southport, England.

jhenderson2 (courtesty Sue Tinsley BRA)

Jack Henderson (courtesy of Sue Tinsley, BRA)

In my book Same Spirit Different Team,  I paid tribute to my PE teacher at Mary Hare, Chris Gwynn for being my role model in sports coaching. But, Jack Henderson, was another massive influence and I would like to make my small tribute to him here.

My education started at Oakwood Avenue Primary down the road from where I lived and Physical Education was a very confusing subject. Although I enjoyed the physical energy of the activities, playing rounders, swimming and achieving BAGA gymnastics badges, I never really understood what I was doing, or why.

Now, football – it was not on the PE curriculum until we were in the Juniors (the last three years of Primary) and I pestered my Mum for a pair of George Best’s Matchmaker boots. The one’s made from the smooth black material and the red interior lining and George’s signature on the outside. They were my prized possession and couldn’t wait for my first football lesson.

GB Stylo Matchmakers

My short-lived, pride and joys!

The lesson came soon enough and I proudly donned my green football kit and boots. I remember getting stuck in and chasing the ball, tacking other players. The teacher suddenly stopped the game, came up to me and said something about playing the game wrongly, stop following the ball, stop trying to take it off everybody and at that point, he sent me off to the sidelines for the rest of the lesson and never spoke to me again. Well, that was it, my enthusiasm for football at school had been crushed, I took no further interest in it.

Cutting a long story short, I spent the last two years of Junior school at Birkdale School. I had to board there during the week and used to get extremely homesick. During the weekends at home,  I would throw my uniform and hearing aids in the bin only for my poor Mum to extract and clean. What a terror I must have been.

But it was PE lessons with Jack that reawakened my sense of self-confidence and pride. His swimming lessons were well organised and I had a lot of catching up to do as my classmates were very competent swimmers.

I made it into the school football teams, because Jack was able to explain the game to us and we all understood our positions and roles in the team. But most of all, I looked forward to the cross county runs on the Ainsdale/Formby sand-dunes and the mid-week evening  runs with the local athletics club. I cherish fond memories of dark nights, cold salty wind blowing off the Irish Sea and the yellow glare of the street lamps of the coastal road dipping in and out of view as we scaled and descended the dunes.

I don’t remember very much about what Jack used to say to us, but it was his high energy and positive enthusiasm for everything that he did that inspired me to love sport again for the benefits that it can bring. I am sure that same sense of fun shone through at the school reunions, which I regret to have missed.

Years later, when I was teaching deaf children in London, I caught up with Jack again on brief occasions through the National Deaf Schools Sports Association of which he was a stalwart organiser of events. I was able to call on his counsel from time to time during my teaching career.

I have just been reading many Facebook testimonials from other people who were taught by Jack. It is incredible to see how he kept in contact with as many people as possible long after we had left school and long after he had ‘retired’. The photos in this post are courtesy of the Birkdale Reunion Association.

Jack henderson at the finish line (Courtesty mark Bollard, BRA)

Jack at the finishing line with a colleague on school sports day. (courtesy of Mark Bollard, BRA)

I count myself extremely lucky to have crossed paths with such a wonderful human being who has finally reached the “finishing line”, RIP Jack Henderson.

Deaf Sports takes another backward step into obscurity.

Kang Chen, the Vice President – World Sports, International Committee of the Deaf (ICSD), has appointed former president and vice president Donalda Ammons and Josef Willmerdinger to join him onto the three-person Deaflympics Evaluation and Coordination Commission. Both Ammons and Willmerdinger were responsible for heading up the catastrophic selection of host countries for the 2011 Winter and 2013 Summer Deaflympics and yet, Kang believes that they are his best choice of counsel to safeguard future games.

The major task of the commission is to monitor the progress of the Deaflympics Organising Committee (DOC) and assist the DOC in the delivery of future games. Their first task will be the scrutiny of the 2017 DOC host Turkey with site inspections and inspections of forward plans and preparations.

Such an appointment demonstrates once again the inability of the ICSD Executive to make rational decisions based on previous experience. They have approved the full time appointment of their CEO Rebrov from Russia who has been found complicit in the falsifying of athletes audiograms in order to discredit an athlete and now Chen has appointed Ammons and Willmerdinger whose decisions to choose the one-man operation in Slovakia that swindled millions of dollars in the Winter Deaflympics that never was and both were also in charge when ICSD simultaneously, allowed Greece a nation with insurmountable debt to go ahead and host the 2013 Summer Deaflympics.

Chen and Rebrov should be asked why they did not appoint former president Craig Crowley onto their Evaluation and Cooordination Commission. He would be a good candidate as he demonstrated that he was capable of identifying the major flaws in Slovakia and Greece as soon as he was appointed. If the ICSD Executive is looking for someone with backbone and an eye for detail, then Crowley would have been seen as a good choice.

The present incumbents were amongst those who were highly critical of Crowley’s decision to stop the Slovakian Winter games in May 2010 when his due diligence and site visits discovered major flaws – the current president of the ICSD, Ruhkledev was instrumental in the defiance of Crowley and persuading the ICSD to overule him in December 2010 and reinstate the Slovakian games which, in the end, had to be cancelled when Crowley’s concerns were proven right. It is not surprising then, that ICSD has reverted to type, pre- Crowley.

Is this the beginning of the end of the Deaflympics ?

Deaf sport needs to engage with parents: SENDirect Launch

In the book, Same Spirit Different Team, I stress the importance of Deaf sport engaging with parents of deaf children for all kinds of reasons which are obvious.

In the past decade or so, Deaf sports organisations have found it difficult to contact parents because of safeguarding processes which are either preventing deaf adults from getting into schools to speak to deaf children and their parents or schools do not have the resources to make the link between Deaf sport and parents.

In the UK, there has been a recent re-structuring of the way in which parents of disabled children and those with other educational needs are connected up with schools and each other and also with other local and regional organisations who offer services and activities that would benefit them. This is an opportunity for Deaf sport.

SENDirect will be launching on 21 January. But what is it ?

The creators of SENDirect want families to be able to find the right activities and support that suit their interests, lifestyles and budgets. This includes finding the right after-school club, sporting activity etc

It should make it easier for Deaf sport organisations to promote their services directly to families and be able to understand and respond to their needs and demands for future services. I would also suggest that this is also an opportunity for smaller parent-led groups too, who wish to get their deaf children involved in sport and an active healthy lifestyle.

So, all Deaf sport organisations in the UK, if you have a committee members, supporters, athletes etc who live in the London area, I encourage you to ask them to go along to the SENDirect launch on 21 January 2015 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, London Docklands 4.30-6.30pm

You will need to book at ticket with Elizabeth Archer, Project Director elizabeth.archer@sendirect.org.uk or you can follow them on Twitter @sendirectnews

At the launch, you will be able to:

  • How Local Authorities are using the service to support effective commissioning
  • Speak to providers about how they plan to use the service to support their business development
  • Hear from families about their hopes and ambitions for the service
  • Talk to the team about how your Deaf sport organisation can get involved

As the saying goes “Do not wait until you are thirsty before you dig a well.” You have to help yourself now.

Critical Review of Thomas Giddens’ documentary: “Does Deaf Football have a Future?”

I have been eagerly anticipating the release of a new documentary “Does Deaf Football Have a Future?” because it is the first time in a while that a programme about Deaf sport was being made in the UK where I had no involvement or insight. I wanted to compare this documentary with my analysis and perspective of the way in which media promotes the Deaflympic Movement and Deaf sport.

 

The documentary has been made at BSL Zone who support the next generation of d/Deaf filmmakers through their Zoom 2014 scheme aimed at d/Deaf scriptwriters and directors who have some experience but have never had their work broadcast on television. This is Thomas Giddens first ever attempt at documentary filmmaking where he explores ideas about the future of Deaf football. The film is now available online.

 

There are an infinite number of ways to analyse a subject and in Same Spirit Different Team I highlight the important of how the media representation of sport shapes and informs public attitudes to disability sport. Journalists have the power to inform or not to inform and they construct reality from their particular perspectives. I was looking forward to finding out how far Giddens would take his responsibility of wielding power to inform us about the future of Deaf football.

 

Without giving too much away; I recommend that you watch this enjoyable and well-made documentary as I think it gives people a broad perspective of Giddens potential as a documentary maker. This debuting director was limited to 15 minutes of airtime and I think he did well to;

  • Use old newsreels and contemporary footage, to give us an historical perspective from the experience of the current GB manager Philip Gardiner.
  • Advocate the current politics and philosophies about deaf football
  • Briefly explore the importance of role models and inclusive football
  • Give us all a hint into what the senior management at GB Deaf Football believes needs to be done in the future

 

Exposure to mass media plays a significant role in reinforcing existing norms and attitudes that might serve to change public attitudes. Family and peer opinions can be strong, but these too are mass media influenced. Journalists have the power to inform or not inform and they construct reality form their particular perspectives.

 

I hope this experience has inspired Giddens to continue making sports documentaries because the more coverage we have of the Deaflympics and Deaf sport, the more information we have to share with the public and society to increase exposure and encourage debate and discussion.

 

Whatever coverage is realised, it does influence attitudes towards the Deaflympics brand; and so it is important that national federations like UK Deaf Sport and their IOC representative the International Committee of Sport for the deaf (ICSD) interacts with the media as much as it possibly can; to present a positive and attractive brand to future athletes, target audiences, corporate supporters and others who are essential to the sustainability of Deaf sport.

 

The Zoom film scheme is designed to support the next generation of d/Deaf filmmakers. Included five days training, mentorship, script development, production and communication support. Find out more by logging into the BSL Zone.