We took time this week to grab the 7’s star at Carrington to find out more about her challenges with adversity, overcoming the stigma surrounding playing elite rugby despite being deaf and life as a Shark.
You were playing England 7’s and now you’ve moved to Sharks, what attracted you to Sharks?
Personally I thought it was an amazing opportunity, a brand new team that we can make something special from. Add in the high performance centre and the coaching set-up, I think it a really big opportunity to make something unique up North.
Up North, said in a broad Yorkshire accent!
You’ve a unique Rugby story, you have a cochlear implant, talk through what that is if you are not familiar with it…
I am profoundly deaf, so basically I don’t have any hearing in both ears.”
The reason I am deaf is, I was born premature and I had to have a lot of medication and they think that I had too much of that medication and that is the reason I am deaf. When I was 14 months old I was the youngest ever person to have the implant fitted. I went to the Elizabeth Foundation to learn how to speak, lip read and oddly learn how to listen. I then went over to America to a deaf school for speech therapy and from there I went into a mainstream school, which was extremely challenging.
How old were you when you started Rugby and why Rugby if you are deaf?
I’ve always had the dream of going to the Olympics, it wasn’t originally about Rugby, it was Athletics and Fighting. My brother started Rugby and I have always wanted to try it, however my parents were hesitant due to the damage risk to my implant. We looked into it, we found scrum caps and at 15 years old when I picked up a Rugby ball. I started and I was hooked!
Then they literally couldn’t catch you?
With a nervous laugh, I wouldn’t say that.
Ounsley is a modest and shy character however has raw skills hence her rapid rise in the International 7’s scene
What is your best experience on the 7’s circuit?
Training alongside world class players who I have looked upto for years.
What is the biggest challenge for you?
My hearing, basically I have no sense of direction, for me I miss a lot of information through being deaf so I rely a lot on sight, people’s body language and trying to lip read. It is a challenge and everything I do is reactive based on cues and clues infront of me and how I read the game.
Who is your biggest supporter?
What are your goals this season as a player?
To develop as a player on and off the pitch. Especially off the pitch, I love anything to do with disability, I am extremely passionate about disability sport. On the pitch I want to prove myself as much as I can in 15’s game and work towards the Olympics.
What is your one piece of advice for someone with an impairment or a disability?
Just go for it! Be honest with people and explain what your disability is and what help you need in situations. I am a shy person but I have learnt, if you are honest with people you will get a lot more from situations.
Don’t shy away from it or let your disability hold you back, use it as motivation.”
Worth noting, that Jodie displays a great deal of passion when she talks about using her impairment as motivation to challenge herself and doesn’t let it hold her back!
Three words to describe yourself?
Nice, determined and after a long pause and claiming she couldn’t think of a third she says competitive.
With that we wrap up the getting to know Jodie Ounsley chat. For anyone yet to meet Ounsley, we have yet to see her not smile around Carrington. We are looking forward to seeing her pace on the pitch and hope that some of that grit, resilience and determination can inspire the squad for their first season in the Premier 15s.