I attend the Derby County Community Trust training sessions to meet people who have similar problems to myself and who I can relate to and feel comfortable with.

We have some great lads and girls who attend, and I really respect them, as I know how difficult it is with a mental illness to motivate yourself to go out of the house, and not feel over anxious. I try to include everyone of all ages and abilities, and encourage them. I believe exercise helps with lifting mood, and just going out for an hour gives you a sense of achievement. It’s not just about winning, but feeling a part of a team, and trying to reduce feelings of isolation and loneliness.

I like to see the coaches as well, and have a talk, I myself have autism so have difficulty in verbal communication, but the coaches and other players are very understanding of these problems and make me feel at ease.

I’ve been attending the sessions for years, since they started and in fact before Derby County became involved. I was also lucky to attend training when it was at Mackworth and was taught by ex Derby County player Steve Powell. The current sessions last an hour which I attend at Soccerdome now next to Pride Park.

 

 

How does football affect your mental and physical wellbeing ?   

Physical activity has a positive affect on mental wellbeing, and football gives me an escape from the really difficult depressive problems I face at home. It is a change to a very rigid daily routine, and can be rewarding especially when helping your team mates achieve, and playing your part within the team. Football is a very positive activity to undertake, and can relieve much built up tension that anxiety causes. Controlled aggression can release pent up anger and frustration, whilst playing, and without causing injury the ball can take the punishment!

 

What are the benefits?

Meeting familiar people every week is a real positive, especially for people who don’t have a social life, and cannot go out much due to social anxiety. Everyone at the football is made to feel very welcome whatever the disability, and the key word is inclusiveness. At the football we all share a common aim of becoming fitter, improving football skills, and help each other. It’s a team feeling and it is motivating knowing you are helping others in the team, as well as it being beneficial to yourself.

 

You look after family members too – does football act as a release or a form of respite where you can get away from everyday tasks? 

Definitely, I’m actually actively encouraged by family to go to football training, as they care about my self wellbeing just as I care about theirs. My dad always asks how I’ve got on after a session, and as he used to play football and we watch it still together it gives us a common bond. My dad even watched me at Pride Park when we were lucky to play on the famous pitch, although he missed my goal as he was to busy talking to someone in the stands!

Maybe just as well as I was supposed to be defending, so technically you might call it an own goal? Although great header as it  looped in under the bar from a cross. It’s our secret that I meant to score. but football training is a great distraction from the mundane chores in life.

Although I don’t resent looking after my dad, I think I’ve made him proud, with a few presentations on the Pride Park pitch of paintings and drawings… there’s a nice story about my dad getting dressed up really posh for the presentation of the Clough Taylor drawing. I was nervous as the ground was starting to fill up, my dad had a Harvard University tie on – I think it was my brother’s as he went to America and studies in England at Cambridge University. Anyway, someone asked my dad, oh you’re an ex Harvard Uni student? Being impressed, and my dad said, “no – ex Sinfin School Derby! It belongs to Kevin’s brother, who went to Silicon Valley in the USA as a Cambridge science student.”

 

What are you looking forward to most once these unprecedented times return to some form of normality?

I want to try and become more active, as lockdown has actually increased my lethargy, I suffer with chronic fatigue, so I’m hoping getting back to playing football will help with that. It sounds strange but I’ve found actually exercise, can help relieve chronic fatigue, although it feels like the last thing you want to do! I want to do more painting, and maybe become more involved with Derby County, and projects connected with maybe some of the first team players and artworks. I would like to try and go to some more first team matches, I find it difficult, and have the extra concern of leaving my ill parents alone for a while if I go, but I will try to make plans once the games are on again.                      

 

What are your feelings on the community work that we do at the Trust and how has this affected you?

I really respect the work that the Derby County Community Trust do, and really appreciate all of the help I’ve been given. I’d like to give something back sometimes, and don’t mind producing artworks as gestures of goodwill. I find it very difficult to socialise having autism and also depression doesn’t help, but I’m inspired that everyone at the Trust has been really kind and shown myself and everyone in the team equal respect and treated everyone fairly without judgement.

I like to feel a part of Derby County, and believe it’s a fantastic club, and it’s great to be part of the disability team. As the whole structure of the club from supporters, club staff, youth teams, ladies teams, academy teams, disability right through to the first team all play a role in representing the club.

I’m proud to be from Derby, and involved with a club with such a rich heritage. I think the Community Trust helps unite and plays an important role in bringing lots of joy to children who love football and are the supporters of the future, and possibly future players.

The Trust encourages interaction, and helps create interest in Derby County for children. I know a lot of children idolise and look up to first team players, just as I did when I was young. It’s great for the kids, and suffering myself with depression I realise how important interest and enjoyment really is to try and maintain as much as possible.

 

What is your relationship like with the coaches and staff team?

I think I have a great relationship with the coaches and staff. I don’t think here is any coach I don’t get on with, same also for the players. I’ve been playing for the team for so long, and seen so many players come and go, sometimes players don’t attend for years for various reasons but then turn up, and often they know me.

I sometimes recognise them, but I’ve known so many players that I might forget the names sometimes! The coaches have always been great to me, and there have been a lot of quality coaching over the years. I know some of the people behind the scenes as well through my art, and Simon, Paul and others have always been really helpful and kind. I’ve tried to help any new coaches settle in as well, as our bunch or players can be challenging at times! I appreciate all of the time the staff and coaches give up, often their own time with tournaments which is really good of them. I respect  a lot of the hard work the coaches and staff put in, and I’m sure that goes for the majority of other players.  I think the coaches get the balance right, as some players may complain, but if I’m there I try and diffuse any situation that is getting out of hand.

Often though the coaches are experienced at handling different characters, and I think Lauren was especially good at having to deal with situations. Ben’s very laid back, and Stuart is very experienced and knows the game, takes no nonsense, and has been a fantastic role model on how the game should be played. We’ve been lucky in that other previous coaches have also taught us so much, including as mentioned Steve Powell, Liam, Wilko, Lee. Luke, Pete. All very good players as well.

 

Would you recommend the sessions to others?

I would definitely recommend the session. It’s a great bunch of lads, really good coaching, very good standard, although that’s not the main requirement. In my opinion it’s a great get together, with like minded people who share a passion for football and want to improve their fitness levels, thus helping their mood. Everybody helps each other, and there is plenty of encouragement.

Life’s problems can be alleviated for an hour, everyone is always made very welcome, and there is an understanding of mental illness conditions and how it affects people is taken into consideration. A safe and friendly environment, coaches and staff are always willing to take time to listen and are very approachable and easy to associate with, everyone is treated equally and fairly.

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