Teacher wins award for new hockey signs

Wendy Russell in action on the hockey pitch
Wendy Russell in action on the hockey pitch

STEYNING Grammar School teacher Wendy Russell has won Disability Sports Coach of the Year.

The PE teacher and hockey coach attended the Sports Coach UK Awards in Manchester earlier this month to receive her UK Coaching Award.

Wendy Russell wins Disability Sports Coach of the Year

Wendy Russell wins Disability Sports Coach of the Year

The awards honour sports coaches and organisations that have demonstrated outstanding success over the last 12 months and are among the most prestigious within the coaching community.

Wendy won her award for revolutionising the way deaf and hard of hearing young people take part in hockey. This has been achieved by creating a hockey-specific sign language.

The idea developed after she discovered only 11.5 per cent of deaf young people do sport outside of PE.

The reason many gave for this was because they had to go to hearing clubs and a lot felt isolated because they needed extra support and people did not know how to interact with them.

Wendy wanted to set up a hockey club exclusively for deaf people so they could feel included and safe. She applied for and gained funding to run a Deaf Hockey Sportivate project in Brighton, the first deaf hockey club in Britain.

She said: “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 new hockey-specific sign language has now been ratified by Remark and endorsed by the National Deaf Children’s Society. It is now being rolled out for use across the country.

Wendy has also won the Sussex Sports Award Sportivate Project of the Year and was shortlisted in the top five for the Community Award in The Sunday Times and Sky Sports News Sportswoman of the Year Awards. She is an England Hockey Level 2 coach, a regional hockey coach, an Active Sussex coach mentor and a Project 500 ambassador.

Head teacher Nick Wergan said: “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.”