Meet Eoin Nolan

March 27, 2021

Eoin Nolan is an Irish deaf water polo player, who has played on the Irish National Water Polo team, and plays at club level for St Vincents Water Polo Club. Let's learn more about Eoin's relationship with water. . .

Q: What do you like about being in the water?

A: Good question, I suppose I think being in the water for a while is a rather enjoyable moment, particularly when you are on the land most of the time. It may sound strange, but I find being in the water is particularly relaxing, perhaps like some form of meditation. Actually, I like to be in the sea even when it’s rather cold. I think it is a stress-free exercise, especially after a long, busy day.

Q: How did you get into Water Polo?

A: I started playing Water Polo when I was 13 years old at my old school, St Joseph School for Deaf Boys in Cabra. My teacher Brian Fitzpatrick was well known in the Water Polo community.

He was the one who introduced me to Water Polo. Without him, most of us wouldn’t have been able to learn or play Water Polo.

I thought Water Polo was quite an interesting, unique sport, so I have continued playing ever since then.

Q: Have you always felt included by your club and aquatic community?

A: Yes, very much, particularly with my old Water Polo club Dublin Celts and now with St Vincents Water Polo Club. They have made quite an effort to make sure I feel welcome within the club and even went to great lengths to make sure that other players and supporters are aware that I am deaf.

Even during a Water Polo match they help me. For example: when I am swimming with my head underwater I wouldn't be able to see the referee's hand signal, and obviously can't hear the whistle, so I could often end up continuing, while play has stopped, but even an opponent next to me would often pat my shoulder to let me know, even though they are not required to do so.

I guess that's pretty good sportsmanship coming from most of the opponents I play against.

Q: What do you think is your greatest achievement in the water?

A: It is quite hard to pick one, but some of the biggest highlights are playing on the Irish National Water Polo Team, winning MVP, and winning the Irish Senior Cup.

I think my greatest achievement is to be able to play Water Polo at a high level as much as I do, but I still believe there is so much improvement I need to focus on.

Q: Has anything ever stopped you from doing something in Water Polo due to your hearing impairment?

A: Not really, despite not able to hear the coach or players during the game. I think Water Polo is a fast-paced game and most of us would rely on our eyes more than our hearing during the game.

I actually think that as deaf people often use our eyes more than hearing, we have a slight advantage over other players when it comes to reading the game unfolding in front of our eyes.

Q: Who is your role model in aquatics and why?

A: I don't have one set role model, but Hungarian Water Polo player Dr Gergely Kiss stands out, particularly with his lethal left-hand shooting. I was fortunate to meet him when he was visiting Ireland. It was quite unreal playing against him for a short time, and it took less than a minute for him to obliterate me!

Q: What one thing could Swim Ireland change to improve our community for you?

A: I suppose Swim Ireland could focus on creating further awareness of disability, including explaining the different types of hearing impairment and deaf.

Many people think that hearing impairment means the person has hearing loss and can't hear well, but in fact, some hearing impairment people do not use sign language to communicate with others, they use hearing aids as listening devices and communicate through speaking.

I wouldn't be called a hearing impairment person but rather a deaf person, because I belong in two different worlds as hearing and deaf worlds. I often use sign language to communicate with other deaf people.

Also, I think Swim Ireland should start to focus on grassroots Water Polo, not just at the club level but at school level. In this way, they can grow the number of participants in the Water Polo community, while creating further awareness of Water Polo and disability within this sport.

Want to learn more?

Want to learn more?

If you want to improve your communication with our deaf community, take some time to watch our 10 Tips for Communicating with Deaf and Hard of Hearing People, and also our playlist of Irish Sign Language lessons.

These lessons cater specifically for swimmers, and include a whole episode on Open Water Swimming Conditions and another on Open Water Swimming Words.

Irish Sign Language Videos
Diversity and Inclusion Policy

Diversity and Inclusion Policy

This story is part of a series we are sharing to showcase how inclusive the aquatics are, and how we believe they are a sport for life, and a sport for everyone.

To find out more check out the documents below:

Swim Ireland Diversity and Inclusion Policy WORD DOCUMENT

Swim Ireland Diversity and Inclusion Policy PDF

On Demand CPD: Deaf-Friendly Swimming

On Demand CPD: Deaf-Friendly Swimming

This online CPD is an excellent tool for teachers and coaches to learn how to teach and coach the deaf swimmer and ensure that deaf and hard of hearing people are fully supported in swimming sessions.

Swim Ireland encourages every active teacher and coach to take advantage of this brilliant course to continue to ensure that swimming is a fully inclusive sport.

Access Deaf-Friendly Swimming CPD