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Winning is Taking Part – Tom Sharples

Communication superpower: Deaf footballer Tom thrives on the field

On the surface, it might seem impossible to include a deaf or hard of hearing (DHH) child or young person in a sport where whistles, calls and shouts are the mainstay of communication. In this video, you’ll discover how one AFL club has kicked goals for inclusion by being willing to think outside the posts.

Our research shows over 80% of clubs feel they could benefit from tips about how to engage and interact with a DHH child. With support from a dedicated mum, Tom’s club grabbed the ball and ran with it, enabling Tom, who was born profoundly deaf, to play the sport he loves.

Tom talks about starting out in Auskick at the age of four, and how getting a cochlear implant at 14 “completely changed my life”. Now 20, Tom talks about the “superpower” that helps him on the field and explains how his coach has found ways to communicate during training sessions. 

I do have a superpower…and it’s good.

You’ll also learn why the team, which Tom says “treat you like a family”, are glad to have him on their side. 

Tom’s mum Debbie shares about being an advocate for Tom, and how grateful she is for the club and teammates who have “accepted him and welcomed him so beautifully.” 

She also has a message for other parents of deaf or hard of hearing children: “I know you worry for them. I did and I still do at times. But you need to be out there supporting them. Do the best for them. Make them feel a part of their community. Help them to thrive.”

Tom has played at the same AFL club for nine years, so clearly they’re doing something right! If you’d like to do something similar, watching this short video will give you some inspiration for getting started.