Signature sporting special with Damaris Cooke

Sign Up- Into Football:

Recently, Signature reached out to Damaris Cooke, co-presenter of TNT Sports new sign language series Sign Up-Into Football. The show launched on the 6th of October and episodes will air the first Friday of every month. This launch by TNT Sports aims to raise the profile of the deaf community and will also increase the visibility of British Sign Language (BSL).

To find out more about this launch, be sure to carry on reading:

Here is what we learned about the show, from co-presenter, Damaris Cooke:

  1. First, could you please tell us more about yourself and your passion for football and sport?

Hiya, I’m Damaris, a sport-mad fan from a deaf family. I have two brothers and a sister so when growing up there was always a competitive edge whenever we played games together. With having two older brothers, I naturally tagged along and annoyed them whenever they went outside to play.

It wasn’t just football; we played lots of different sports, and some were even made up but we were outside all day throughout summer holidays. Soon I became hooked on football and sport in general. I was a natural all-rounder at school and represented the school in almost every sport. Then I started to focus on football at club level and I was fortunate to be selected for the pioneering women’s deaf football- GB Women and England Women- when they were first formed, and the rest is history.

2. Why do you believe that it is so important that Deaf people can connect with sport?

If you look at the rich history of sport, it’s always been central to deaf people’s social lives and the fact that the Deaflympics is older than the Paralympics (by more than 20 years), it goes to show how important it is to deaf people. It’s not only an opportunity for people to compete, but also an opportunity to catch up and socialise.

Deaf people follow mainstream sport just like everyone else, but it can be inaccessible due to poor subtitles or sometimes none at all! This programme helps to address the accessibility gap- we touch on points that would have been covered in the commentary, for example, VAR decisions and red cards. It means d/Deaf people finally have access to information relating to the sport they love and therefore feel connected.

3. What were your initial emotions when being selected to present SignUp- Into Football and why did you apply?

Being sports-mad, it was a no-brainer to apply! I also received over 30 texts from friends and family yelling me to apply. A job to talk about football sounded dreamy!

I was actually in Germany at my wife’s parents’ houses when they first told me so needless to say I celebrated with some German beers afterwards! I was so happy of course but really did not know what to expect. I thought this would be low key but the experiences we’ve had, and the PR/interviews has just been mind-blowing. This is a bigger deal than we had initially thought and I’m just so honoured to be here really.

4. How did you adapt previous presenting experience for this show?

It did help having some previous presenting experience, but the skills involved on this show are completely different. There’s more improvisation with interview questions and ensuring this flows naturally is crucial. This differs from other shows where the questions are structured.

I’ve never had a co-presenter, so this was a whole new and different experience. Rolf and I have learnt so much from working together, and we’ve had to build a special relationship where we can feel comfortable giving feedback on each other (good and bad) and listening to each other’s input on the show- what works, what doesn’t work etc. It’s nice having a co-presenter as you are both sharing the burden but also that you have each other as a sounding board and provide each other with a much-needed crutch.

5. What do you hope to get from presenting this show, do you hope that it will create positive changes for the deaf community?

I’m incredibly honoured to be part of this pioneering series; this initiative means greater exposure of the deaf community and the need to ensure they are included and not just as a box-ticking exercise.

The core message of this initiative is accessibility. Access is needed 24/7, 365 days a year so I hope for football clubs and other sports channels to take notice and reflect on their own accessibility for deaf people. There are now more deaf people on mainstream programmes and it’s so important to carry on this momentum.

I never once thought I would be doing something like this and now, I’m actually doing it, I just hope this leads to greater things. Numerous deaf people across the UK are experts in their own sporting field, and their knowledge is left untapped. This opportunity has shown that anyone can apply and succeed, and this platform shows that if anyone has a dream, it’s absolutely achievable!

6. Finally, do you have any future goals or aspirations?

TNT sports are really invested in Sign Up being a legacy, so I would love to see where this journey takes me. Perhaps I could be the next Gabby Logan- I’d be able to watch and follow sport, a huge passion of mine, interview people, talk about sport and get paid for it- that wouldn’t be so bad!

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