England para star Joe Dixon talks of 'powerful community' among deaf people
It's Deaf Awareness Week between 1 and 7 May 2023, so meet one of our Para Lions Joe Dixon who explains why football has been life-changing for him personally and professionally
The centre-back is the founder and head coach of YP-Academy, a Sheffield-based business that coaches 200 players on a weekly basis.
And Dixon admits that he was inspired to start his own business after representing his country on the grandest stage.
"The coaching side of stuff is motivated by my commitments to England,” he said.
"It was motivated by wanting to be a role model, it gives me that freedom and it gives me more structure to my life to be able to train and play for England while also having a job that allows me to be flexible.
"And I think more importantly I am able to be a role model for those kids as well and emphasise powerful messages.
"I've coached since I was at university and then for the last four or five years I've had the business, it's all about providing high-quality training to players but with an emphasis on discovering life values, a positive attitude and respect.
"It also helps players transfer those skills into other aspects of life such as education, or maybe even other sports.
"We're just trying to help people give their all so they can achieve what they are trying to achieve, not just as a footballer."
The various Para Lions squads often train together at St George’s Park, with the likes of the men’s partially-sighted squad, men’s cerebral palsy squad and male and female Deaf squads involved.
Dixon credits football with helping him connect with the community after being born profoundly deaf in both ears.
He revealed: "I had grown up in a hearing world, almost mainstream, but when I got into deaf football that is actually when I started to learn British sign language.
"That's really helped me and it has been really important especially on the international stage, to be able to communicate with the other players who may heavily rely on BSL as their first language.
"I never knew about the community or the opportunities that were there before being introduced to deaf football.
"It's a powerful community that are very proud of their identity, and I think meeting that community has really helped me establish who I am as a person to be proud of my identity and of my disability.
"It really has opened me up to making a load of new friends and memories as well as playing for England."
“Football means everything to me. It’s my purpose, it’s my life. It’s my everyday job.”— England Football (@EnglandFootball) December 13, 2022
We sat down with @England Men’s Deaf player, @joedixoncoach_, to find out about his journey within football ⚽️#TakeYourChance pic.twitter.com/tDT3ebR1DA
Launched in October 2021, the landmark disability Football Your Way plan has heralded an increased commitment from the FA with ambitions set to raise the profile of disability football and change the perceptions and social barriers to support more disabled people to play football by 2024.
And Dixon heaped praise on the plan for giving para sport a platform.
He added: "Football Your Way is a great initiative and it's a great way forward for the whole platform of para sport.
"It's really trying to get it out there with much wider media coverage in terms of the general public.
"It acknowledges that para sport deserves a place among all the other mainstream sports and with Football You Way that is a message that we will be able to get out there.
"The next 12 months are really exciting, I was delighted to meet Prince William and then I was down at the Lionesses game against the USA and before that, I was involved in media coverage with EE.
"So there are plenty of opportunities there and it is going to be really exciting over the next 12 months."
ENGLAND PARA: FIND OUT MORE