Age: 27
Place of birth:  Belfast
Where you live: New Lodge Road, Belfast
Club/Association: St Patrick’s FC & Tackling Against Mental Health Issues Football Community
Your Sport: Football
Your earliest sporting memory: My earliest sport memory was a bad one at the time (but in hindsight its funny now) which to this day I still get a bit of stick about. I was a goalkeeper and in the U14 semi-final of the Northern Ireland Boys cup I completely flapped at two basic catches and cost my team a place in the final, as we got beat 3-2. The really frustrating thing was that in the quater-final I saved a penalty and we won 1-0, so it was a case of going from hero to zero.

You learn from sport to be strong and just put it behind you which I did easily. You learn from your mistakes and this helps with your improvement and development.

Your sporting idol: Peter Schmeichel

Best piece of advice you could give to a young athlete: “He who fears losing has already lost.”

You cannot win everything and you need to lose in order to learn. You should not be scared of defeat – learn from it and move on. If you want sport to be about performance then work towards becoming competition focused and give it 110 percent.

If you just want to enjoy the game you love, just do it and do not worry about what others think. Participation in my eyes is more important than winning.

Young people should enjoy the sporting experience and try and find a sport or physical activity they enjoy and stick to it, whether it is football or simply dancing. My advise is get an activity and build it into your routine and everyday life and just enjoy it.

You will receive so much benifits in terms of developing social relationships, better health and fitness and positive mental wellbeing all through involement in sport or physical activity. It’s a cliche, but it’s the taking part that counts.

The most important thing for sporting success is: Enjoying it. An athlete at the Olympics will strive towards winning a medal and if they win they are successful.

In my view sport success is a young person going to a training session and leaving wanting to return when the next session takes place, as they enjoyed the experience. If you enjoy something you will tend to stay involved in sport – to this day I still cannot catch a ball in ‘big’ nets so I started my own six-a-side team and I am a goalkeeper in ‘small’ nets and I am half decent at them. I play to enjoy myself.

 

I have been working with the St Pat’s coaches to inspire a new way of thinking in regards to using football as a means to address mental wellbeing and to promote youth leadership.

Yes it is nice to win, however the focus of a coach should be to develop young people of all abilities and to give that extra help to those that need it. How? Through young mentors – use older players who are classed as the ‘best’ players to help develop and mentor younger players and to pass on transferable skills and to create club heros for young people to look up to.

The focus should be on creating a supportive and enjoyable environment that will allow young people to develop at their own pace and not feel excluded if they have less ability than other youngsters.

I became re-involved in my boyhood club St Patrick’s FC (New Lodge Road) in 2010. I am not directly involved in coaching but more in terms of capacity building and fundraising (that is a result of the guilt from losing the club the Cup semi-final!)

I have been working with the NSPCC and ClubMark NI to update and improve the club policies and I have been drawing up a club development plan and identifying possible funders to ensure effective delivery of new programmes and to promote youth leadership.  I am helping St Pat’s at the minute put a structure in place that will ensure that kids who enter into the St Pat’s family are developed technically, physically and mentally with a big focus on whole person development.

On a personal level I work in sport and have a degree in business studies and am trying to use my planning and strategic skills to drive change in regards to mental wellbeing.

I am an active fundraiser for Lighthouse Ireland and an active campaigner for mental wellbeing, I have my own campaign Tackling Against Mental Health Issues Football Community (TAMHI FC) named after my friend Tammy Tucker who died by suicide in 2009.

I do all this voluntarily and am working with various groups such as UnLtd and Sported to promote a model that will inspire sports clubs to take the lead in addressing the issue of poor mental health and suicide awareness.