Creating more mental health champions in local sports clubs

Supporting children and young people to recognise and manage their mental health is an important consideration for anyone working with this age group.

And now in a pilot programme for sports clubs, North Walsham Town Football Club (NWTFC) has taken on large-scale mental health champion training to support its coaches and staff to be confident in recognising and supporting children and young people in the club with their mental health.

Ormiston Families is a charity that delivers group mental health champion training, including to teams at schools and healthcare settings. Through discussions with Ormiston Families, we recognised the opportunity to broaden this support to the role models and key figures in children’s lives through their sports clubs.

We linked Ormiston Families in with NWTFC, a proactive club that acts as a hub of community support for the town.  With over 27 youth and adult teams, 600 youths registered with the club, and a proactive management team that is committed to using the club to support the local community, NWTFC was approached to be the first to trial Ormiston’s Link mental health champion training for their whole team.  

Chairman Craig Brown recognised and grasped the opportunity to educate the team at NWTFC around mental health.

mental health training at sports club

We’ve all had such a hard year. We wanted to let our kids know they can come to us for support if they’re struggling.  And we wanted to give our coaches and managers the knowledge and confidence that they can recognise the signs of poor mental health and know what they can do to help and where to signpost to. Education is key.

NWTFC has organised the training for all 40 of its team of staff, coaches and managers, who are all volunteers. The training will take place over two sessions due to the large size of the team. The first training session kicked off on Sat 14th August at the football club with around 20 attendees, including councillors from North Norfolk District Council and representatives from Healthier North Walsham.

Lucy Shires, Mental Health Champion for North Norfolk District and Norfolk County councillor for North Walsham East, attended the training session. She is keen to support the club as they address the issue of youth mental health in the town.

“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.”

Mental Health Champions at NWTFC
Staff discuss mental health at training

Opening up the opportunity to other sports clubs and groups

But educating the team at NWTFC isn’t the end. Chairman Craig Brown along with Vice Chair Steven Gibbs are proactive in expanding the role of sports clubs as hubs of community support. Through their networks and on social media, they’ll be promoting the training and the benefits to their team and players. They hope that more clubs will want to take on the training.

Active Norfolk’s mental health lead Sam Watts said “The mental health champion training that Ormiston provides is relevant and accessible. We knew that NWTFC would be able to take on this training and start to support the young people in their club. Coaches can play such a key role in supporting children and young people to develop, not just in their sport but also as individuals. We hope that this programme proves to be a success for NWTFC and that we can work with other sports clubs and community groups. We want to equip more coaches to feel comfortable talking to young people about their mental health.”

Once the team have completed their mental health training, they’ll have access to Ormiston’s Link website which contains additional resources and information to help them feel confident in supporting their young participants with their mental health concerns.

If you are interested in arranging mental health training for your sports club or community group, email [email protected]