DEAF AWARENESS IN NETBALL
The following information has been put together to improve communication between players that are deaf /
have partial hearing, team officials, umpires and coaches.

A team of players may have different levels of hearing, some will be able to lip read, some may have partial
hearing or be able to hear sounds at a certain pitch and others will have no or very limited hearing.

It is recommended that all umpires and teams are familiar with both sets of protocols.

•   Make sure before the game that the players understand which umpire is responsible for which part of the
    court (players also need to take responsibility to learn this rule).

•   Stay slightly ahead of the player with the ball at all times. The player with the ball needs to be able to
    see the umpire.

•   In some exceptional circumstances it might be appropriate for the umpire to go quickly on to court to set
    a penalty.

•   Each umpire needs to use a flag to help in communication. Ideally this should be brightly coloured and
    attached to the wrist, allowing hands to be free for signalling.

•   To stop play both arms are raised above the umpires’ head in a star shape.

•   Umpire controlling the Centre Pass drops hand at the same time as the whistle is blown to start play.

•   Make sure that play has stopped and that players and are looking at the Umpire prior to issuing
    instruction on the offence (and reason for it) and direction of pass.

•   Hand signals need to be clear and sustained and used in addition to voice commands. This includes
    showing the direction of the pass. These signals are illustrated in the England Netball Official Netball

•   Ensure someone else scoring (leaving hands free for hand signals).

•   Liase with teams / League to ensure extra personnel available with flags to demonstrate stopped play
    (ideally 4 people one on each corner of goal/side line but not in the path of the umpires movement.).

•   Also use your voice – some players may hear a level of sound and this will help communication.


•   Make sure before the game that the players understand which umpire is responsible for which part of the

•   Make sure that players are fully conversant with the rules and in particular the recommended hand
    signals (refer to the England Netball Official Netball Rules).

•   Have extra personnel available with flags along each sideline to demonstrate stopped play (ideally 4
    people, one on each corner of goal/side line, but not in the path of the umpires’ movement. See umpire
    protocols for suggested protocol to stop play. Substitutions, if available, may also be used.

•   Inform other players on the court (via the Captain) that players are deaf and ask them to tap on a
    shoulder courteously if play as been stopped / the whistle has been blown – this will save time.

•   Ensure that Scorers are provided. If possible the score is communicated to the teams by a scoreboard.
    Guidelines on keeping/recording the score can be obtained from Head Office.

•   Remember at the end of the match to thank the umpires.


•   To get a deaf person’s attention, tap on their shoulder (but not in a manner to make them jump!) or wave
    (if you are more than a metre away). Don’t pull people into position.

•   Be aware that lip-reading is 60% guesswork as many words have a similar mouth pattern; hence the use
    of sentences improves conception.

•   DON’T shout or over exaggerate your mouth patterns, as it’s harder to lip-read – speak normally at a
    slightly slower pace with clear lip patterns.

•   DO use hand gestures to aid communication and it is useful to learn finger spelling as spelling out the
    first letter of a word often helps communication.

•   DO use pen and paper to write down or draw a diagram if not understood (prior to or post match).

•   Remember Deaf people can do anything except hear and good communication requires co-operation
    from both parties.

•   DO wait for the players to stop and look at you BEFORE you explain why there is a penalty / free pass
    as players need to lip-read the beginning of the sentence for it to make sense. Players cannot hear you
    shout or comment from behind.

•   DO use flags simultaneously as blowing the whistle to give a visual indication to start or stop play and
    give deaf players an opportunity to participate in the game on an equal par as their hearing peers i.e.
    Stop play – both hands raised above umpires head / Start of play – swing flag down

•   DON’T speak with a whistle is in your mouth / while chewing gum / have a pen in your mouth as it is
    impossible to lip-read when that happens.

•   DON’T repeat single words if you are not understood – rephrase your sentence, as the context is easier
    to pick up in sentences.

•   If a sign language interpreter is present always address the Deaf person directly and be aware that there
    will be a slight delay in the information coming across from spoken English to British Sign Language
    (BSL) and vice versa.

•   BSL is a language of its own right with a different grammatical structure from English and for some Deaf
    people BSL is their first language hence English is their second language.

                                                                   COMPILED BY:

                                                                England Netball and
                                                                 the West Midlands
                                                                    Deaf Netball
                                                                    3 June 2005

                                                                   England Netball
                                                                    Netball House
                                                                    9 Paynes Park
USEFUL WEBSITES:                                                       Hitchin
England Netball                                                     Hertfordshire                                              SG5 1EH
UK Deaf Sport
UK Deaf Sport can provide tailor made sign language and deaf awareness courses for all sports
contact Stewart Harrison on

Secretary of Deaf Netball
To register with Deaf Netball egroup. To find out more about any deaf netball teams to join in.
Provide advice and information for any deaf netball clubs.

British Sign Language

English Federation of Disability Sport

Making an effort to communicate with deaf people who sign will go a long way to providing
a warm welcome for them and building their confidence, even if they have a signing
interpreter with them. The British Two-Handed Finger Spelling Alphabet is shown below,
but you can get details of British Sign Language (BSL) from The Sign Language Bureau
on 020 8292 1091.


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