Nelson & Colne College Group recently caught up with former student, Zara Musker, to learn her extraordinary story that encompasses a loss of hearing, international football, and working within the heart of the NHS.
Courses taken at the College:
- BTEC Level 3 Extended Sports Diploma
- A Level Psychology
At the moment
“The pandemic really impacted disabled people and their ability to take part in sport,” Zara reflects. “However, the FA recently launched their ‘Football Your Way’ initiative to enable people with disabilities to return to activity. This includes the England Women’s Deaf Team who I represent.”
Though it has been three years since the team’s last international tournament, the World Deaf Championships in South Korea next year is the goal and Zara is one of those hoping to make the squad. “It’s a really exciting prospect,” Zara tells us, “My whole experience with the England squad has developed me as a person while giving me the freedom to retrain as an audiologist.”
Your time at the College
Zara studied at Accrington and Rossendale College where she completed a BTEC Level 3 Extended Sports Diploma and an A Level in Psychology. “My time at Accrington and Rossendale was amazing, the courses were so well structured and I played football all the time! I’d go so far as to say that my two years at the college were the best of my life. I always felt extremely well supported and if I did have any issues they were ready to listen.”
While football was Zara’s life and remains her passion to this day, she commenced an Undergraduate Sports Science course at UCLAN after finishing at Accrington and Rossendale to broaden her career prospects. Then, in 2019, she lost all hearing in her right ear and required a cochlear implant.
“The loss of hearing in my right ear changed the direction of my life,” Zara candidly tells us, “For six months I had to wait for the implants, not wanting to leave the house or know how to tell people about my situation.”
Zara, however, is not easily defeated. Her experience triggered a desire to help people with hearing issues and she soon enrolled onto a 3-year scholarship with the NHS Scientist Training Programme, working in Audiology as a clinician scientist.
Your experiences since leaving the College
“It’s fair to say I’ve been busy since my college days,” Zara beams. “Despite my football commitments, I’ve dedicated time to working in summer schools, with Blackburn Rovers in the Community, and providing assistance in an NHS hospital to educate service users about health, fitness, and wellbeing within a healthcare setting.”
Throughout this time, Zara has also been quite the jet-setter, traveling the world to play football and futsal in Sweden, the USA, Bulgaria, Thailand, Norway, the Netherlands, and Spain. Today, she lives closer to where it all began, providing her audiology expertise at Withington Hospital in Manchester.
“It’s still the football that gets me most excited though,” Zara says. “With FA support behind the England Women’s Deaf Football Team, the future looks bright. They’ve said they want every Para team to be challenging for a podium by 2024 and are backing that up by letting us train at St. George’s Park. The facility is absolutely fantastic and just being in that environment, you get that sense that we’re just as important and considered to be just as elite as the other squads that train there.”
“Make the most of opportunities presented to you even if they may appear challenging,” Zara advises our current students. “Always be open and honest as much as you can and embrace who you are.”
Perhaps most importantly, Zara wanted to share her story so that young girls might learn to feel confident enough to play football regardless of any disability they may have while helping to change the perceptions of both women’s football and hearing impaired football.
“Playing the game just takes you to a different place. Once you put that shirt on, you’re not just doing it for yourself. I want to help people experience this and to raise awareness of the opportunities out there. I think that’s the bigger picture for me now.”