Head-In Sessions at Summerfields

By Ben Cornwell 

Free football sessions promoting positive physical and mental wellbeing were launched at Summerfields Sports Centre in Hastings at the end of September. The sessions are being delivered by The Charitable Football Club (TCFC) as a community project entitled Head in the Game.

The club was set up by Chairman Mark Pinkney to help men with their mental health, through a combination of staying active and the use of ‘Talk Club’, a place for the participants to talk about any issues in their daily lives. 

First roll-out has been in Thanet and Maidstone for the 25-55 age group. But after being awarded funds from Sussex Community Foundation, TCFC are branching out in East Sussex to help encourage more young adults to get involved in an initiative aimed at 18-25 year-olds.

CREDIT: Ben Cornwell

Pilot programme

The sessions are being run as part of a 12-week pilot programme by head coach Matt Davey indoors on Wednesday evenings from 8:30-9:30pm. No footballing background is required to take part. Each session will help participants improve their basic skills such as passing, dribbling, and shooting through a selection of drills, then playing a match at the end.

Before any warm-ups or footballs are kicked, though, each session begins with Matt going around the room and asking the group to rate how they have been feeling from 1-10. This allows him to check in with everyone and gives them the time to share as much or as little as they want, knowing that they are not alone. 

Matt, who is also a youth worker by profession, thinks these sessions are important and unique for the local community. The open discussions give men the opportunity to talk about their mental health, something he rarely experienced whilst playing competitive football.

“I have played football for decades and have teammates I have known for years. but we wouldn’t speak about mental health. I only found out in the last couple of years that I had been sharing a changing room with a few men who had been suffering from depression.”

Open and welcoming

Mental health problems can affect anybody, regardless of age. However, according to the latest NHS statistics, over 75% of cases are established by the age of 25. Whilst Head in the Game aims to provide a fun footballing experience for anyone that attends, it is also hoped to create an open and welcoming atmosphere where people can feel safe to raise any personal issues. 

The first three weeks in Hastings haven’t attracted a high attendance, but then news of the sessions has only been shared through word of mouth and the occasional social media post. But if only two people show up, and the  match at the end is a 1 v 1 face-off, it can still be enjoyable. Last week’s session had a new participant in attendance – he was reserved on arrival, but showed over the course of the hour both a clinical left foot and a notable growth in confidence. He appeared keen to return the following week.

Matt hopes that, once the message is out, more locals will take advantage of the chance to play football indoors every week without charge, particularly with the winter months drawing in. 

If you would like to sign up or find out more about the sessions, visit: www.headinthegame.co.uk. You are asked to bring suitable football clothing such as sportswear, trainers and shin pads.

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