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Pilot course for deaf people hosted by Lea R.C.

Deaf rower and aspiring rowing coach, Clive Collier, and Lea R.C. coach Dave Porter share their experiences of a new pilot scheme for Deaf people.


As an adaptive and Deaf rower who has been rowing for 10 years, I have now embarked on my journey to become a coach. I was recently given an incredible opportunity to host a new pilot rowing scheme for Deaf Rowers. The pilot was funded by UK Deaf Sport through the ELREM Foundation and was held at Lea R.C., with assistance from Dave Porter.

Clive (foreground) coaching rowing machine technique. Photography: Michael Crawford / Elrem Foundation / The Disability Sports Network.


I have been truly amazed and impressed by the support we received from the Club, especially by the numbers of volunteers who gave their time. This has given new Deaf rowers the opportunity to experience what it is like to row on water.


I was equally impressed with the patience and effort from Dave, who played a key role in coxing and relaying all the Signing signals to the Deaf rowers. The other coxes all did a great job too!

It was a pleasure to work alongside Dave as we together managed to overcome several obstacles and bounce ideas around on how to adapt communication with the Deaf Rowers on water. It was a challenge and experience I thoroughly enjoyed and I know all the rowers did too!

A huge thank-you and heartfelt appreciation from myself and the rowers go to everyone who took part in the project. It was inspiring to see everyone working as a team and make the Pilot a huge success! I'm very much looking forward to the next sessions in September!


Clive Collier.


Dave (foreground) coxing the Deaf rowing group and Lea R.C. volunteers. Photography: Sean O'Shea.


Back in late May, our captain asked if I wanted to get involved in helping Clive introduce other Deaf athletes to the world of rowing. As I had led several Learn to Row (L2R) courses, I was confident putting sessions together, but quite apprehensive about communicating the plethora of rowing terms as well as the complexities of body movement and boat control without the power of speech.


I met Clive, who also has a disability affecting one of his arms, in early June and was relieved to discover that not only is he an excellent lip reader but has a great understanding of the sport and how to develop rowers. We sat down with Dorothy, the driving force behind the initiative, who is supporting Clive in his efforts to become an accredited rowing coach, along with Steve our club water safety advisor. We soon identified what we wanted to achieve and realised that we would initially have to pare down the language to a minimum for safe learning, and develop some specialist signs.


Clive came along to several of our regular L2R sessions so we could discuss what we might fit into our four planned sessions. During his second visit, we realised that the best way for our Deaf rowers to get to grips with the meaning of the various signs was to have some hearing rowers model it for them early-on. So, the call for volunteers from the Lea R.C. membership went out.

Dave coxing the Deaf rowing group and Lea R.C. volunteers. Photography: Michael Crawford Hick / Elrem Foundation / The Disability Sports Network.


With a proposed rowing signing vocabulary agreed, the first Deaf rowers came in July with Clive, Dorothy and Toro (our BSL interpreter). Starting on the rowing machines, we and our volunteers worked the ‘Deaf rowers’ as we had taken to referring to them through the rowing sequence using our special signage. Moving to the river, me and our volunteers demonstrated everything from getting into and out of the boat, to rowing and turning round (essential if you want to get back home. 😊). It was then the turn of our Deaf rowers, accompanied by a hearing rower in bow seat.


When I had a go at coxing I was struck by how calming it was for words to give way to signing either above my head or to the side with no shouting or speaking. I just had to be sure to think well ahead and anticipate the next communication. It was also a great, but very welcome, surprise to find that some of our volunteers had signing experience and in one case, fluent.


After a quick coffee and plenty of discussion, verbal and non verbal, we were out on the water again. We made progress in all the sessions over the two weeks, and Clive grew in confidence. A great success all around, lots of learning points for all. I'm looking forward to September when we hope to return for more Deaf rowing.


Dave Porter.


Getting the boat on the water and rowing on the pilot Deaf rowing course. Video: Michael Crawford Hick / Elrem Foundation / The Disability Sports Network.

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