COLERAINE Football Club’s youth Academy has become the first Club in Northern Ireland to partner with a mental health awareness initiative in a bid to promote positive mental health amongst its young footballers…
Youth football cannot exist without the generosity of sponsors to help kit teams out for the season ahead but this season the Coleraine Academy 2006’s have decided to do something different.
With the support of the Academy, the senior club, players, parents and coaches, the 2006 squad have decided to for go a team sponsor and place the logo of a local charity on the back of their shirts.
The Academy has partnered with Train 2B Smart, a campaign headed by former Manchester United and Northern Ireland defender Pat McGribbon.
Pat set up the initiative back in 2013. He has seen the devastation left behind for families after suicide and on a personal level has experienced this himself, when he tragically lost his brother to suicide.
Train 2B Smart has objectives and goals that we at Coleraine would like to promote through the teams at all age groups namely the promotion of positive mental health and well being of children and young adults through sport.
Pat explained: “Train 2B Smart are delighted to partner with Coleraine Academy in improving mental health outcomes through our #itssmarttotalk project.
“I have spoken to John Gregg and academy parents, children and coaches on the key message within our wristbands and that is about being prepared to speak about mental health issues.
“We are certainly getting there in terms of mental health, but we are not there yet. We want to reduce the stigma to encourage children that it is smart to talk. It also about developing young leaders within our communities,” he said.
As part of the project Academy players will be given Train 2B Smart wristbands. They allow children to share how they are feeling by the way they wear their band.
Head of Academy, John Gregg is delighted with the partnership, he said: “We have already had some contact with Pat with the older age groups, so I am excited to get the rest of the Academy teams involved to get the #itssmarttotalk message out there.
“These wrist bands are a great way of enabling children to talk about their feelings, and that is the first step to better mental health.
“Coleraine, like any other area in Northern Ireland has seen the devastation left behind by suicide. We hope that this initiative will encourage youngsters to speak up about how they are feeling,” said John.
Manager Oran Kearney is also backing the initiative, he said: “I am delighted the club has partnered with train 2B smart and given our young players the tools to develop their mental health and well being.
“At the club we are determined to not only develop our boys and girls as footballers but as individuals in all aspects of their lives. We are only too aware of the mental health issues in society today and in particular in youth and we welcome this programme to equip our young players to address issues which may arise in their lives.
Colin Mckendry, Coleraine Football Club Chairman added: “This is just another example of how we as a Club are investing in our youth.
“It is essential that our young players know that it is ok not to be ok and with the use of the wristbands they can signal that to others. As Oran says it is an area of health that we as a club take seriously and want to do all we can to assist in our young people’s wellbeing.”