My Personal Mental Health Story
Having a dream
Ever since I was a little boy, I only had one dream and that was to play for Liverpool and walk out at Anfield hearing the fans sing the famous song “You’ll Never Walk Alone”.
I collected all things to do with Liverpool and football, from making my parents buy the home, away and third kits every season to collecting Match Attacks; I was football obsessed and side note I still am now.
Growing up I used to go over the park after school every day and play the game I love, whether that be by myself with my cousins or with my sister’s mates from school who were five years older than me (I always felt so privileged to be playing with boys so much older).
Dorchester Raiders were my first team at seven years old. We won our league winning all sixteen games and scoring an impressive 163 goals as team, I scored 70 of them. We also won many tournaments that season and all these achievements made me love the game even more and I made some of the best friends who I am still just as close with now.
I was fortunate enough to get scouted by AFC Bournemouth and I signed for the academy at seven years old. It was a very proud moment for me and my family. At this time AFC Bournemouth were struggling on and off the pitch in league two but as an academy player I didn’t take too much notice of this. I just focused on developing as a player and enjoying playing the game at an academy level.
I remember the car journey’s to training with my Dad. We used to train three nights a week and I would rush home from school and my dad would rush home from work and we’d be off in the car travelling to training from Dorchester to Bournemouth.
I would normally have a nap all the way up which looking back was probably selfish of me considering my Dad had spent eight hours at work. On the way back from training my Dad would give me advice and tips about what I could improve on or what I needed to do to be the best player. He was and still is my biggest supporter and I still go to him for advice about everything in life not just football.
I spent the next twelve seasons with the club rising through the age groups and earning myself a scholarship when I was sixteen years old which was one of the best feelings in the world and I felt all the hard work was starting to pay off. I remember how proud my family, friends and teachers were for me and after finishing my GCSE’s I packed up and moved from Dorchester to live in Bournemouth with a family who looked after me and two other players.
Reality of the game
The next two years were the best but toughest I’ve faced during my life. I made some of the best friends and had some of the best days of my life to date but when I reflect on it now, two years later, I realised how much I struggled mentally.
Every day was a really tough mental battle which I think the majority of players would agree with me that football challenges you mentally every day. From the moment you enter the training ground to the moment you leave you are being tested. This would vary from being asked what you did at the weekend to what you were eating to testing your body fats and flexibility. All this is very common, and I enjoyed seeing how my body was doing physically.
However, I never came in on a Monday morning and was asked how I felt mentally and if everything was okay in my personal life. It wasn’t that I expected to be asked but now as I reflect it seems that football club only want to know how your body is feeling and performing but not your mind.
Like many other players I have felt alone and lost while playing the game I loved. When I was released from AFC Bournemouth I felt at my lowest and thought I’d never achieve the dream I had always had. Months trying to work out what I had done wrong and sent myself crazy at times. I received no support from the club after I left. I didn’t get one phone call to ask how I was doing or what I had planned for the future.
In my last meeting with the club, they said they would be there to help but they weren’t. To be fair I didn’t want or expect anyone to call at the time but when I look back maybe a call from someone from the club to check up on me may have given me a boost in confidence. Luckily for me I have a great family who were there for me and gave me all the support I needed to get through that tough time.
The first person from the club to contact me was U23’s assistant manager Mark Molesley who was also Weymouth FC manager at the time. He reached out to me to ask how I was and offered me a contract at Weymouth FC which I took. This made me feel like I did make an impression on the coaches at the club and it was all worth it and that was my route back into football. As Weymouth are a semi pro team it also allowed me the opportunity to go to university and embark on a new chapter in my life, and I still believe that going to university was the best decision I’ve ever made.
I am a very competitive person and at all costs want to win and this is still the same today. I will train and work to win and succeed in everything I do from playing football to my university assignment to something as little as playing cards, but one thing I haven’t ever trained or tried to improve is my mental state.
Why? I’m not sure but until recently I never thought I needed to or felt I was in a position where it would help me. What I have realised is in the last nine months I have worked on myself physically but even more mentally and I feel in the best place I’ve ever felt.
I love playing football again and want to succeed and I feel the same with my university degree as I enter my last semester. I’m surrounded by the best people who support me and want me to achieve great things and this has been huge for me as I’ve never had as much support as I do now.
I think it’s important to remember as a young player that football is a matter of opinions and what one manager thinks about you doesn’t define you as a player or person. Everyone has their opinions, and some managers will rate you and others won’t that’s just the way football is.
I am thankful to be in the position I am today. Today i am playing semi pro football and studying for a degree and mentally I feel great. I am proud of how far I have come and can’t wait for the future.
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