“Being deaf in a hearing world is incredibly tough, but playing football for England is incredible.” – Claire Stancliffe.
We at BoxHuman are passionate about highlighting and celebrating inspiring humans; especially the ones who are inspiring, helping and bringing light to the world. We do this in order to rebalance some of the negative messages we often hear, see and receive on a daily basis. We quickly met up with one of these amazing individuals…
Hi, Claire thank you for taking the time to speak with us. Let’s dive right in! Can you please tell us in a couple of sentences a little bit about you?
My name is Claire Stancliffe, I am profoundly deaf and I am from Northamptonshire. I am a senior sports coach and have played for the England/Great Britain Deaf Women’s football squads for twelve years and counting.
Amazing intro Claire, thank you! At BoxHuman we love to get to know inspiring people like yourself. Can you please tell us in your own words how and when you got into sports and what inspired you to do this and why?
My parents used to play sports themselves. My dad was an England schoolboy footballer and my mum played hockey. When I was very young I used to see a lot of football on the TV and always used to play out in the park outside our house with my friends.
My family are big Liverpool fans so whenever they were on the TV, I loved watching Steven Gerrard play. I wanted to be just like him. Back then, girls’ football wasn’t very popular. There weren’t any local girls’ teams around. Luckily my primary school had an all-girls team. Around eight years old I moved house which meant I had to change school. I was the only girl in the whole school who played football so I joined the boy’s school team. Around four and half years old, I was diagnosed as being deaf. Playing football was the one thing that I found I was seen as the same as anyone else.
What a great way to start this interview and to get to know you a little more. As with life and especially with learning something new what would you say has been your biggest challenge since doing sports and how have you overcome it?
The biggest challenge for me has to be the lack of deaf awareness. When I was younger it didn’t really affect me. As the years went by, I started to become more conscious of the fact I was missing out on a lot. I don’t pick up everything that’s said at training especially when it’s dark and I can’t lipread. The dressing banter most of the time goes straight over the top of my head. More recently there’s been a few occasions where the opposition is just oblivious and say really hurtful things about me being deaf where I get accused of making it up. I wouldn’t say I’ve ever overcome this issue as it does affect me to the point where I’ve been in tears at halftime and no longer want to play. But I’ve learnt to try and deal with it by ignoring the comments (ironic!).
We’re sorry to hear that some people cannot seem to still understand that ‘words’ do hurt! Thank you Claire for sharing that with us and for showing how people can overcome such challenges. Let’s lift up the mood and not give any more ‘play-time’ to those types of people. So, a little birdie told us that you’ve made some incredible achievements so far. Being 3 time Deaflympian & 4 times bronze medallist how has this made you feel and what inspired you to enter these competitions and why?
It does make me very proud to be able to say I’m a Deaflympian and 4 times bronze medalist. At the same point, I’m very disappointed with myself as it doesn’t say gold medalist (yet!). I really hope that our achievements in the past are paving the way for the next generation and inspiring them to reach the top. Playing for England/GB changed my life massively and I hope that future opportunities will allow that to happen to another deaf child/young person.
For me, being deaf in a hearing world is incredibly tough. No one really understands how isolating deafness can be unless they’ve been through it themselves. Playing football in a deaf team with teammates who have been through similar experiences is incredible. Everyone feels involved all the time, no one misses out on conversations and we all have access to high-quality coaching that’s fully accessible.
Thank you for highlighting what it is like for you and for other deaf people, because we ‘hearing’ people can sometimes be oblivious and ignorant to it. Can you please kindly share with us what you’ve learned from your own personal journey and what others should learn from it?
It’s a bit of a cliché but I’ve learnt to make the most of everything I can and grab opportunities with both hands. There have been times I’ve failed which has just made me work a lot harder and eventually led to success. Over the recent years, I’ve learnt not to take things for granted and that it’s ok to not be ok. With a flick of a switch, life can change.
A serious injury had a massive impact on my life and put me in a really bad position. Luckily I had such fantastic support around me to help me through it. Having a serious injury can be very isolating and you suddenly go from being very active to a sedentary person which makes you feel rubbish physically and mentally. Luckily for me, I had such amazing support from my family, physio and teammates. From this, I actually learned it’s ok to not feel ok. We all have bad days and that’s normal.
For the first time in 9 months, I’ve actually kicked a football⚽️ Feels so good to have a ball at my feet😍 Not bad for my first go. 6 months post ACL reconstruction now. Still a very long way to go💪🏻 @ACLrecoveryCLUB#aclrecovery #aclreconstruction #aclrehab #showyourscars pic.twitter.com/yyErWueWGa
— Claire Stancliffe (@clairels1989) April 23, 2018
Wow, I like many who are reading this are inspired already. What an incredible outlook on life! It’s so refreshing to hear words like ‘it’s ok not to feel ok. So Claire, what makes you smile and inspires you to be you on a daily basis and why?
Winning medals makes me smile! On a serious note, one thing that really does make me smile is seeing the impact of our achievements on others. I’ve had parents contact me to say how what we have done has inspired their daughter/son to play. Recently I’ve had several that are now on the England disability pathway all because we helped them realise there are opportunities and dreams do come true. That’s just incredible. I think this has to be what inspires me to be me on a daily basis.
And what is your favourite quote?
My favourite quote is “Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard” – I’ve never been the best player and probably never will be. But one thing I do is work hard and that’s what made me an England/GB player. Not just talent alone.
If there was one positive thing you would say to someone to inspire and empower them what would it be and why?
Dreams really do come true with plenty of hard work. Although I have to say my dream of meeting Steven Gerrard hasn’t gone to plan (I’m still working on this one!). Sometimes you have to fail in order to be successful. If you do fail, it’s ok. Pick yourself up, work even harder and try again.
I’ve failed several times. That made me go away, and work even harder and I couldn’t wait to prove people wrong. I did just that and the feeling of saying “I did it” was great.
With such amazing achievements so far, let’s move on to my next question. What future life goals do you want to achieve and why?
For me right now, I just want to enjoy playing and making the most of what I have left. Having a serious injury has put things into perspective. I don’t know how long I have left playing now. My body especially my knee may tell me to stop. I would love to win a gold medal before saying it’s time to hang up my boots. If that isn’t possible, I would love to achieve this may be in a different role as a football coach. I’ve always said that when I can’t play anymore, I would love to be involved in the team as a coach to pass on my knowledge and experience. I want to continue inspiring and showing deaf children the amazing opportunities that are out there for them.
And in three words how would you describe yourself?
The three words to describe me would have to be stubborn, quiet and shy (believe it or not!)
A BoxHuman is an empowered individual. They will not be defined by society’s labels. They show the better qualities of humankind, such as strength, kindness and inspiration. Can you please tell us what makes you a BoxHuman?
I’ve always given up my time to help others in many ways. Through fundraising to allow my football teams to attend international tournaments, sending gifts such as signed shirts/photos to children/supporters to helping my parents who look after foster children. It doesn’t cost anything to be kind and I believe that we all have the power to change someone’s day by being nice.
“Thank you, Claire”
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