Football for mental health - a thank you to funders

Home Football for mental health - a thank you to funders
30 May 2023

Football for mental health - a thank you to funders

We often write about the physical and mental health struggles that accompany a cancer diagnosis – 95% of young people diagnosed will suffer a negative impact on their physical ability, and three in four will experience some kind of serious mental health issue.

Through all our activities we want to play a part in supporting young people overcoming the challenges cancer brings – to recover their physical health, emotional wellbeing and develop skills that support them in all aspects of their lives.

And football, with the team at one of the country’s most popular Premiership Foundations provided the perfect opportunity to achieve many of our goals – pardon the pun!

On 21 May, 12 young people we support, some accompanied by a plus one, joined us and a team led by the football foundation staff and supported by students from one of their university partnerships, to take part in a skills programme.

The timing of the event was significant as we reached the end of Mental Health Awareness Month – this year the official theme for the campaign was anxiety -  90% of young people diagnosed with cancer experience anxiety – so fitting that we rounded the month off with something designed to provide them with opportunity and skills to help deal with this.

Our objectives were to

  • Create social connections for young people with a shared experience and a common goal
  • Improve physical strength and ready the young people for a return to activity/exercise
  • Relieve stress, increase concentration, and improve sleep
  • Improve self-confidence and self-esteem
  • Develop skills such as team working, resilience, problem solving, time management, communication, active listening, and self-expression

The session started with some ice-breaker activities, where the young people learned some dribbling skills - these skills help to improve balance and co-ordination. Cancer treatments can cause neuropathy which can affect your balance.

They then took part a mental health drill, where they dribbled to a cone, and then were asked to discuss a mental health challenge and how they would handle it.

Through the session the young people learned a variety of technical football skills including shooting, volleying, ball control, and passing.  They improved their strength and stamina and increased the distance they were able to cover.

After a break for refreshments, they split in to four teams and took part in a tournament, bringing together all the skills they had learned throughout the day. Football teaches valuable teamwork lessons that apply on and off the field with understanding and trust being crucial.  GIven that these young people had only met today, the trust and understanding they had was remarkable, a common experience does much to unite these young people.

As well as the technical skills they learned, the young people developed skills that will be useful in all aspects of their life and will help them to move on positively from their diagnosis – they developed their compassion, composure, mental strength, and motivation.

The day finished in the traditional style of all great football games with a presentation and a celebration.  Signed boots and a signed shirt did much to further increase the confidence and sense of achievement of the young people.

To our funders, we offer sincerest thanks for helping us support more teenagers and young adults to overcome the challenges that cancer brings.

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