As a young player, Ryan Davies had some negative experiences playing football because he had colour vision deficiency (CVD). Now working for The FA as regional PE and coaching in education coordinator, he wants to ensure other young players don’t have the same issues he faced.
Matchday: the best day of the week. The one day we have all been eagerly counting down to.
As a coach, it’s time for all that hard work and preparation on the training pitch to come to fruition. The players arrive with smiles on their faces ready to give their all. For fans walking to the ground, the sense of anticipation builds as kick-off approaches. As the two teams line-up, who knows what excitement, joy, drama and learning experiences the afternoon will bring.
Except there is a problem. A big problem. Both teams are wearing exactly the same kit. At least that is what it looks like to me. Why? Because I, like over 300 million other people worldwide, am colour blind. In fact, believe it or not, one in 12 males and one in 200 females have some degree of colour vision deficiency (CVD). Statistically, that’s at least one in every male squad from grassroots to the Premier League.
As a player growing up, while my teammates were excitedly talking about how many goals they might score and which celebration they would do, my thoughts were of which kit the opposition might turn up in or which bibs and cones the coach had in their bag. Would I end up accidently passing to an opponent and conceding a goal in the last minute? Would I dribble the ball off the pitch because I couldn’t see the lines? Will I be able to see the ball when it’s at the other end of the pitch?
Being able to distinguish between the two teams, see the ball clearly and recognise where the pitch boundaries lie is, of course, fundamental to the experience enjoyed by everyone involved in our wonderful game. So, as coaches, what can we do to ensure that those with CVD, whether they are aware they have the condition or not, are not experiencing challenges which may affect their enjoyment or performance?
- The biggest challenge for any player with CVD is distinguishing between their own team and the opposition. Try to avoid common colour blind kit-clashes in matches and training such as: red/green, blue/purple or yellow/orange. Blue versus yellow or white is the most colour blind friendly option.
- Marking out playing areas in training will be vital to the success of your practice. However, these zones may be hard to see for players with CVD so try not to use red or orange cones on a green surface. Yellow and white cones will provide the biggest contrast to a grass pitch.
- There is now a wonderful array of coloured footballs to choose from when purchasing your equipment for the new season. Unfortunately, some of these balls - such as the red or orange - may be extremely difficult to pick out against the green grass, especially from a distance. A traditional white ball will be much easier for colour blind players to see.
- Players with CVD may struggle to follow instructions involving colours during team-talks and training sessions. When using coloured pens on tactics boards aim to distinguish between teams using different shapes. For example: triangles v circles.
Keeping these simple principles in mind on match and training day will have a significantly positive impact on the experience of all those with CVD. Ultimately, and most importantly, it will ensure that, colour blind or not, every single player can concentrate on dreaming about scoring a last-minute winner and not about the colour of their kit.
Here is some further colour blind guidance for coaches:
What do you think of Ryan's suggestions here? Have you coached players with CVD? If so, what have you done to accommodate them? Let us know in the comments below!