James Coppinger never wanted to be a professional footballer, yet somehow he has racked up more than 750 career appearances over the course of 21 seasons in the game.
In a bid to help Coppinger reach his potential, Penney introduced him to behaviourist Terry Gormley.
“I remember Dave said to Terry ‘I’ve got someone who I want you to work with. If you can change the fortunes of this player and make him a better player, I’ll buy into what you’re doing’,” he explained.
“So I met Terry and I remember just thinking ‘wow’ after our first session. It seems over the top to say it, but it was honestly life-changing for me. I didn’t recognise it at the time, but I must have been in a really bad place psychologically for him to have that much of an influence on me. Mental health wasn’t really talked about back then, but every time I worked with him my mind-set got better and I started to see a massive improvement in my life off the pitch as well as on it, which coincided with both myself and the club being successful.”
Of course, with success off the pitch comes success on it, and Coppinger went on to play a major part in a golden period of Doncaster’s history.
Some 16 years later and Coppinger is still going, his name already firmly etched in Doncaster Rovers’ history books. He has no plans to hang up his boots and recognises his mind-set as his strongest tool and the reason he’s still successful today.
"My mindset is the strongest thing I’ve got," he continued. "It’s something I’ve worked really hard on over the years – it’s not just a coincidence. I think that’s why I’m still playing at the age that I am.”
Determined to pass his experience on, Coppinger set up a business called Pro Mindset, helping young footballers improve their mental approach to the game.
“I actually set up a business with Terry called Pro Mindset, to help young players who need it. Improving your mindset is something that’s attainable, people can work on it and improve it - they just don’t know how.
"A lot of people aren’t open enough to admit that they need to work on something or don’t know how to. I’ve always wanted to become a better person, whether that be a better husband, a better father, a better friend or a better footballer and that’s the sort of help I want to give people.
"We’re all conditioned in different ways; everyone is brought up in a different way, functions differently and behaves in a different way. Everyone needs to be treated slightly different, but it’s massively important that people understand the mental health side of the game and how it can affect you.
“Football is not just about ability. It’s not just about turning up on a matchday. Players that are willing to open their minds to improve their mind-sets will go on to have the best careers."
This weekend football will come together with the ambition to kick off the biggest ever conversation around mental health, as new research shows just one in three football fans regularly talk about mental health with their friends.
Over the past two seasons, the EFL has joined forces with Mind, the mental health charity, to help improve football’s approach to mental health and raise awareness around the country.
Now, for two weekends in February, every football team from across the English Football League, Premier League, The National League, The Barclays FA Women’s Super League, The FA Women’s Championship and The FA Women’s National League will dedicate their matches to Heads Up, a partnership between The FA and Heads Together.