I’d like to wish you all a happy if somewhat belated new year on behalf of everyone here at Sporting Chance and take this opportunity to reflect on the galloping strides made by the charity’s Education, Communications and Athlete Engagement Department over the course of 2021.
‘New additions’ is an overarching theme of this update and one of the most significant pieces of recruitment by us last year was in fact, you. Friends of Sporting Chance (or FOSC as it’s affectionately known in the office) had been in our plans for some time and came into being in October. It’s going to be a massive part of how we communicate with, engage with and educate those we serve, how we learn from them, and how we support their mental health. Our Friends will ultimately carry us into a new era in sport in which there is genuine parity between physical and mental health and we will likely be in contact with you soon if you’ve kindly volunteered your services. Just the act of sharing this FOSC link with as many people as possible within the sporting world will be a big help.
And you were not alone as new starters. February’s recruitment of Alison McLean as an in-house therapist based out of the department’s York office has taken our workshops, seminars and e-learning consultancy to another level, aided greatly by the appointment of Ellie Griffin as Departmental Assistant who now has responsibility for the day to day running of much of what we do. Alison, Ellie, and psychology undergraduate Lauren Fisher (on loan to us from Durham University) have reshaped how we communicate with athletes - in particular female athletes – as well as general club and support staff. Additionally, the launch of our first ever ambassador programme (in partnership with professional squash) brought Lucas Serme and Mary Fung-A-Fat into the Sporting Chance family in February and I can say with authority, the family is all the better for it.
We secured some key mental health education contracts last year; Women’s Super League academy football (as part of the Diploma in Sporting Excellence programme), another rollout for the Professional Cricketers’ Association (to first team squads, male and female, on the relationship between social media and mental health) and the tender for addiction education across all sport in Northern Ireland.
This is on top of our already extensive output, which in football alone includes education delivery to all academy players in the EFL through our partnership with League Football Education, to all Premier League players at first team and academy level, and to elite squads and performance staff at the FA – much of the above backed up by access to our clinical services which are fully funded by the PFA.
This work is delivered by some brilliant personnel who understand the realities of poor mental health within professional sport, and just as importantly, the barriers to seeking out solutions and implementing change. Eddie Johnson, Paul Mortimer, Chris Murphy, Oisin McConville and our team of co-facilitators and guest speakers deserve huge credit for the work they do in this regard.
My team embark on 2022 with justified optimism and an already chunky ‘to do’ list. With hard work and a fair wind, we’ll directly educate over 4,000 sportspeople this year and through our developing communications channels, put our name and our services in front of a whole lot more.
We’re looking forward to the challenge and appreciate having you alongside us as we go.