Mat took some time away from rugby last week to give an inspiring talk and share his experiences of being a professional deaf rugby player with local school pupils. Our thanks go to King Edward's School for writing the following story.
Mat Gilbert visited King Edward's School last Wednesday, 17th April, to talk to Year 8 about his rugby career and the impact that his deafness has had on both his education and sporting life.
Mat plays flanker for Bath Rugby and the England Rugby deaf team. His hearing loss was diagnosed when he was five years old and his hearing gradually deteriorated as he grew up. Even now, when starring on the pitch at the Rec in front of a noisy capacity crowd, he wears a hearing aid in each ear.
As Mat explained to the fascinated Year 8 pupils, he has always found ways to work around his disability (he is an expert lip reader, for example, which can come in handy in professional sport) and he was always determined that his deafness would not prevent him from achieving his ambition of becoming a world class rugby player.
His hero is Lawrence Dallaglio and Mat has always aimed high. He has never wanted any special treatment and he continues to make light of his condition, leading the pupils in the auditorium in some VERY loud music playing!
He admits that being deaf can lead to him missing the odd cue on the field but explained that, because he always knows the plan for the match and the team works so well together, he can spot and adapt to changes very quickly.
One pupil in Year 8 who has suffered from similar hearing loss to Mat Gilbert since a very young age, has recently had an operation to fit cochlear implants which made Mat's talk all the more relevant and interesting to the pupils who really enjoyed meeting and asking him questions.
Many thanks to Bath Rugby for helping to make this happen and to and Mat himself from our Year 8 pupils and staff.