Former rough sleepers and service users from two local charities are enjoying the chance to boost their mental and physical health by attending football sessions run by Wolves Foundation.
A group from the Good Shepherd first started attending Head 4 Health football at the Foundation Arena at Aldersley on Tuesdays but now they have their own session along with clients from P3 on a Thursday afternoon.
Football provides a valuable outlet for those people who are going through difficult challenges in life in helping improve the confidence and self-esteem of participants who wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity.
“The guys who attended the Foundation’s Head 4 Health session really enjoyed the football and it’s great that there is also now a session including P3,” says Neil Booth, a project worker at the Good Shepherd with a particular role in supporting ex-offenders.
“Football in itself is a sport which brings people together, there is a team ethic rather than individual and you can’t put a price on that.
“I have got people who come from a long way from the other side of town to make the sessions – even in the wind and the rain – that is how much it means to them.
“There are mixed ability levels within the players who turn up, but nobody judges anyone else, and it is all about encouragement.
“That partnership with Wolves Foundation, and the chance to offer these football sessions, is absolutely invaluable for us.”
Ashley Langford, a mental health specialist link worker with P3, has also seen a change in those who are supported by the charity with the new football initiative.
He added: “Since P3 have been going to the Wolves Foundation with the Good Shepherd, I have seen an increase in positivity and morale between the people we work alongside, as well as making new friendships.”
The Foundation’s Health & Wellbeing Manager Rachel Smith has confirmed that there could also be other activities offered if the football proves a success.
“We have already forged good working relationships with both the Good Shepherd and P3 and it is nice that we have been able to welcome some of their service users to our football sessions,” says Rachel.
“There might be the opportunity to add in other activities at some stage, say for example a visit to a driving range or other similar opportunities, as well as the potential for different workshops.
“We know that a lot of those attending will be accessing other services as well so have to make sure we are not duplicating other activities but we are happy to listen to add in other initiatives if it can provide additional support.
“There is the opportunity for us to work together and for it to be participant-led, and we know that football can provide the hook to help provide support for people including benefitting their mental and physical health.”
Head 4 Health is the pioneering project set up by the Foundation in March of 2019 with funding from the Premier League & PFA Community Fund and the City of Wolverhampton Public Health and Wolverhampton CCG.
The programme aims to improve men’s mental health and wellbeing based around statistics that men are three times more likely to take their own lives than women and are far less likely to access available help and support.
For more information about our Health & Wellbeing projects follow @wwfcfoundation on social media and check out our news page here.