Monday, September 26, 2011

"The Big Advantage of Being Blind...", Derek Heyes, Part two

 When Outlaws fan Derek Heyes appeared last year on a BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) Television general knowledge quiz show and won £1,800  (about $2,700) in prize money, he topped his previous highlight achievement, winning the BBC “brain of sport” quiz, which was also a national quiz broadcast throughout the UK on  BBC.  Derek says he has always loved taking part in general quizzes and has played in local quiz leagues.  And he's good at it.

Neither quiz show asked questions about Women’s Professional Football.  If they had, Derek was ready.

Derek says he first came across the Austin Outlaws “whilst undertaking some research into minority sports for women.”   His research involved making contact with teams in the US to “gain more information and a greater insight into the women’s tackle scene across the Atlantic.”  He got responses from a number of teams and players involved in the sport.   

Laura Eddy

He says “the Outlaws were great in replying to me and providing me with lots of information about women’s tackle football and about their own set up and players.”  Outlaws general manager Lily Messina was especially helpful and also passed on his questionnaire to a number of Outlaw players. Several Outlaws responded, completing the questionnaire and “supplying me with data on themselves and about their feelings regarding attitudes towards the sport.”  Derek specifically mentions  Laura Eddy who “would always respond to my various questions very promptly and very honestly, and in this way helped me build up a better understanding of the playing styles and different tactical approaches that teams might adopt in the league.”  Many other players replied -  Sarah Snyder, Veronica Narvaez, Jill Elliott, Tiffany James, and others. 

Derek says the fantastic response he got from the Outlaws changed the way he viewed the team.  “I stopped being a detached observer and became a fan, albeit one who is many thousands of miles from Austin.  It was great to learn of a victory, and I also shared in the disappointment whenever a result did not go according to plan.”

I introduced you to Derek in this blog, a posting last Tuesday, September 20. And promised to follow-up with more about this remarkable man.

Blind since age six, he completed basic schooling in a program for the blind, went on to college and then a teaching career, from which he has recently retired.  He retired from teaching but continues to be a lifelong student.  He is constantly doing research into subjects that interest him and that might come up in his quiz contests.  His research is facilitated by special software on his computer that speaks everything on his screen. 

Much of his research into Women’s Professional Football involved visiting team websites.  Many of the sites, including the Outlaws, have limited information about the players. But he found the “Featured Player” articles we used to publish on the Outlaws site to be especially informative.  Through them he became fascinated that football not only accepts “Powerfully Built” players – it actually needs them.  His research has focused in part on the role of the larger ladies – on their fitness levels, on their contribution to team success, on how smaller players handle going up against bigger opponents. 

His interaction with the team and players has grown into friendship, both email and in person when Sarah Snyder and MaryLou Spenser have managed to visit Derek in England.  When Sarah brought three friends, Derek managed to fix them up with tickets to “watch a Manchester United soccer game at the famous Old-Trafford stadium.   I know they enjoyed the match and the experience of being part of a 70,000 plus attendance, and they also seem to have a great time with me and some of my pals as we undertook a tour of some of Manchester’s liveliest pubs!”

Derek with Sarah Snyder (just behind his right shoulder) plus
her friends and his, having a good time in a pub.

Derek and one of his friends with Sarah and three of hers.

Derek and I have exchanged emails regarding what he terms as “powerfully built” women who are so important in football.  He applauds when I report retired players are engaged in other sports activities and keeping fit.  He shares my annoyance at some social stigma against ladies who are bigger than average.  In this exchange he gave me an observation I’ll keep forever:

““The big advantage of being blind is that one does not have stupid prejudices based on a person’s physical appearance (what really counts is what they are like inside).”

I expect to post more on Derek.  He is a remarkable person and a friend of the Outlaws.

If you'd like to help him in his quest for more knowledge about football, please email him at:

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