Please welcome our third addition to our young blogger team, Sophie Mattes who is 28 and is a world class cheerleader. Her take on teamwork is amazing, could be applied to many aspects of our daily lives and we get a real insight into the world of cheerleading.
Hello everyone. My name is Sophie, I am deaf with hearing aids in both ears and I’ve gone through many things in my life. I wasn’t actually born deaf or even with any hearing loss at all. In 2009 I became really unwell with a condition called Gastroparesis. It’s where my stomach is paralyzed. I lost my hearing when I was 21 years old due to Ehlers Danlos Syndrome. Who knows which condition came first.
Having to relearn how to communicate at 21 years old was extremely difficult. I totally didn’t accept it for a long time and it was a new world for me. I am also learning British Sign Language.
Whilst my battles have not always been easy, they’ve led me to where I am and I am so proud of all my achievements. For example, I am a two times cheerleading world champion. I do this competitively and I was fortunate enough to be on Team England Adaptive Abilities.
Life is about working towards your goals, right? When you’re deaf, you instantly have to work that bit harder, especially in group situations. For those of you that don’t know what competitive cheerleading is; it’s a mixture of stunting, tumbling, dance and jumps. It’s about teamwork and counts.
Small matters that hearing people wouldn’t even think of can suddenly become a safety issue. If I get the wrong counts, I could walk into someone doing a backflip or drop my flyer (the person we throw in the air). Thankfully, I’ve come across some amazing coaches and athletes who’ve helped me along the way. Working together we’d find ways to help ensure I’m on the right counts and doing the right things.
When I was on Team England Adaptive Abilities, we’d come up with loads of ways to help and keep me feeling included. I had a couple friends on the team that already knew BSL and then my coach searched high and low to find a way to help me keep to the music. In arenas, you aren’t always able to feel the music through the cheer mats, and music has no clarity. My coach found a vibrating device that I put on my ankle and she’d have the remote which she used to buzz it.
Through cheerleading I’ve definitely regained confidence I lost because it’s shown me that there’s always a way round the barriers and the people that care will go out their way to make sure you’re included and can achieve your goals. Never give up on your dreams. It may take time or 100 different people, but there’s always a way!