Football club volunteers learn mental health warning signs

From left, Steve Underwood, North Walsham Football Club reserves

From left, Steve Underwood, North Walsham Football Club reserves manager, Holly's colleague, Holly Dowsing from Ormiston Families, Craig Brown, football club chairman and U14s manager, Lucy Shires North Norfolk district councillor, Steven Gibbs (club vice chairman and U10s/U12s manager. - Credit: NNDC

Volunteers at a north Norfolk football club have taken training to better recognise issues and support children with mental health issues.

More than 20 people from North Walsham Town Football Club (NWTFC) attended the mental health champion session, delivered by the charity Ormiston Families and the not-for-profit group Active Norfolk.

Steven Gibbs, the club's vice chairman, said: "We work closely with Norfolk FA in terms of childhood safeguarding, so we're fully versed, but we thought it would be a good idea to give this extra knowledge to our volunteers.

At the Ormiston Families mental health training session at North Walsham Town Football Club. 

At the Ormiston Families mental health training session at North Walsham Town Football Club. - Credit: NNDC

"It was an eye-opener for a lot of us and will help us manage things that we would possibly otherwise overlook."

Lucy Shires, the council's mental health champion, said: "Mental health has been impacted as a result of the pandemic, especially for our young people.

"The more people we can train and educate about the impact of poor mental health the more people can be helped."

About 250 boys and girls aged from five to 18 play football at the club, and Mr Gibb said participation had boomed since the end of the coronavirus lockdowns. 

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He said: "Demand has gone through the roof because a lot of parents are keen to get their kids outdoors taking part in team activities. 

"We're giving them an environment where they can play football in a safe place, where they're away from their everyday pressures and they can have a good time with their mates."

Mr Gibbs, 42, said the demands on children's mental health were much different from when he was growing up, partly due to the "image conscious" pressures of society and social media.

Ormiston Families provide mental health training for groups such as schools, healthcare organisations and sports clubs. 

Nigel Lloyd, a councillor for North Norfolk District Council, who was also at the session, said: "Young people look up to and respect their coaches and when coaches are out in the community, they’re looked up to as role models for the wider community.

"That’s why it’s important that our coaches have the skills they need to be role models in and out of the club.”