Benjamin has gone from the boy without the confidence to talk to anyone to the man coaching the sessions in less than a year thanks to Aston Villa’s ‘Think Football’ project.
Benjamin joined Think Football, which is Villa’s mental health and wellbeing football project, in 2017. Ben has mild learning difficulties and suffers with psychosis, which effects his mental health causing a range of symptoms including anxiety and depression. Ben lives in supported housing and often relies on a support worker for everyday situations. Prior to joining Think Football, he was very introverted, not comfortable in social situations and rarely involved in external activities.
Ben’s support worker suggested that the Think Football sessions would work for Ben as they offer support for a wide range of mental health issues. His support worker accompanied Ben at the beginning and he soon became a regular weekly attendee.
When Ben first started the sessions, he was extremely quiet and would not make eye contact with anyone he did not know. Gradually as the sessions progressed he was able to come in and say hello to all the staff and hold a conversation with eye contact. Ian Robinson, Aston Villa Foundation Coach who has known Ben from day 1 commented, ‘When Ben started he was very quiet and shy but since taking part in Think Football he has become more confident and outgoing”.
During the programme, Ben not only started to develop his football skills but also improved his communication and social skills. A few months after first attending Ben had begun to make friends through the programme, and was invited with some of the other members of the sessions to go to the cinema. His support worker said it was a massive step forward and made him feel accepted within a group.
Over the last few months he has started attending the sessions on his own, making his own way from home to the sessions and back again. When the coaches asked for anyone who wanted to step up and support by taking a warm up, Ben surprised everyone by volunteering to have a go.
In April this year Villa offered participants the chance to complete a fully funded FA Level 1 as part of the programme. Ben immediately volunteered and due to his commitment and the personal journey was selected to complete the course. Due to his learning difficulties Villa provided some extra support to complete the online part of the course.
Thanks to a lot of hard work he completed his FA Level 1. He said that: ‘The Level 1 has helped me to design fun and engaging football sessions so that I can assist at Think Football. It has made me feel more organised and confident to do more things’.
Ben has shown himself to be a good level 1 coach, and is now supporting Villa’s Think Football sessions. With mentoring support from our coaches, he will go on to develop further and would like to complete his FA Level 2.