Changing lives through sport

The aim of our Coping Through Football project is to help participants to improve their physical and mental health, raise their confidence and self-esteem and reignite thier social skills. The following testimony shows how one individual has used the project to change his life.

Jonathan has always loved football, encouraged greatly by his father, John. In 1990, aged 7, he was the mascot for Barking FC as they faced Southend United in the Essex Senior Cup Final, Barking winning 4-0.

Being a local lad, he still follows his local club although he also has a soft spot for Dagenham & Redbridge and more recently, Leyton Orient.

During his secondary school years he was on Millwall’s books as a promising striker but soon after, Jonathan had a mental health breakdown and has since been in recovery, unfortunately curtailing any thoughts of a professional football career.

For the past three years, Jonathan has been attending Coping Through Football, a project designed by LPFF and delivered in partnership with Leyton Orient Trust and NELFT. Since attending, Jonathan has improved self-confidence, regained communication skills, lost weight, improved fitness, made friends as well as re-igniting his passion for playing football. So much so that he approached Barking FC to see if he could play for his local club.

“The club has been fantastic,” said John senior, “and firstly allowed Jonathan to go along just to train with the reserves. Over the years, he has put on weight and so fitness is still an issue but to feel part of a team again doing what he loves has been like a full circle completing.”

As the season came to a close, Martin Haywood, Barking Reserves Manager, allowed Jonathan to be a substitute for the reserves, bringing him on towards the end of a game, an unbelievable achievement considering where Jonathan was just a couple of years ago. But then, during the last game of the season, he came on from the bench and scored a stunner into the bottom corner in a 5-1 win over Takeley.

“It has been like a dream come true,” continued John, “and ultimately it is Coping Through Football and all the wonderful staff who have made it possible. The project is brilliant and the participants really do benefit in so many ways.”

On learning of Jonathan’s journey, Martin commented, “Jonathan’s attitude is excellent and he is a very nice young man. I hope he goes on to do great things which he is more than capable of and lives life to the full. It's been a pleasure being part of his journey.”