Whether she’s playing rugby or making videos on social media, Jodie Ounsley is changing people’s perceptions.
Elite rugby player Jodie Ounsley is no stranger to curiosity and questions: she was the first profoundly deaf player to be selected for the England Sevens team. Now, the 20-year-old is using social media platform TikTok to share her journey.
Jodie’s path to professional sport hasn’t been simple: she didn’t start playing rugby until she was 15-years-old but quickly impressed coaches.
“My rugby career has been a rollercoaster, but I wouldn’t change a thing,” shares Jodie. “The reason why I started later on in life is because of my cochlear implant and the risks. Individuals are medically advised not to do any contact sports so throwing rugby, an aggressive contact sport, into the equation is not ideal.”
A direct impact to Jodie’s head could dislodge the magnet in the cochlear implant that helps her hear. When her younger brother started playing rugby, Jodie and her parents looked into safety measures that would allow her to play, agreeing on a scrum cap to provide some padding to her head during games.
“This isn’t 100% safe, it’s just my decision to take this risk and play the sport I love,” reveals Jodie. “Five years later, I am the first deaf female rugby player to represent England Sevens and I’m working hard towards my dream of competing at the Olympics.”
Not Just Anyone
Jodie has always had a passion for sharing her story, having previously launched Not Just Anyone, what she describes as a positive platform sharing human stories. Now, Jodie is talking about being a profoundly deaf rugby player on TikTok.
“Being profoundly deaf from birth, as a child I soon developed a determined mindset to overcome barriers and succeed,” reveals Jodie. “Some would say this was a disability, but in actual fact, this has become my strength and given me the opportunity to connect and reach out to people across the globe.
“The impact of connecting and sharing our own stories is incredibly powerful in my eyes, with the potential to inspire others to be curious and push themselves beyond comfort with the knowledge that anything is possible.”
Disabled creators have a strong presence on TikTok and Jodie now has more than 65,000 fans and 2.9 million likes on her profile.
“I assumed TikTok was all young girls doing dancing trends, but I thought I would try and share a little bit about my story and spread deaf awareness the same way I do on my other social media platforms,” remembers Jodie. “The feedback I got was incredible. Most of my supporters are parents of young deaf children or individuals who have never come across a deaf person and are genuinely intrigued to learn more.
“I don’t think we should underestimate the volume of people who use TikTok these days and how powerful it can be.”
As she continues to use social media as a positive tool, Jodie is returning to play with the England Sevens in 2022 while working towards the 2022 Common Wealth Games and the 2022 Rugby World Cup Sevens in South Africa.
Learn more about Jodie’s experience playing professional rugby on TikTok @jodieounsley
Featured image: @jodieounsley on Instagram