A football club for people with mental and physical health issues is training up its next generation of young coaches thanks to a grant from a community charity.
The Wrexham Inclusion Football Club is bouncing back after the pandemic and, with participation growing, a new team of coaches were needed with the North Wales Police and Community Trust (PACT) stepping in with a £2,000 grant.
Numbers are booming at the regular Wednesday evening sessions at Plas Madoc, Acrefair, with up to 100 players aged from six to 61 turning up and they regularly compete in tournaments all around the country.
The club were nominated for the grant by the local policing team in Wrexham, led by Inspector Gavin Gilmore, and the money will pay for four young people to step up and gain coaching qualifications to help develop their own careers and the skills of their fellow club members.
Inclusion Club Trustee Andrew Calton said: “The club was formed in 2011 to support individuals with learning disabilities and has grown to include those with mental health issues.
“Many of these players were being turned away by clubs in the Wrexham Youth League because they said they weren’t good enough and that’s a lot for a young person to take but with us they get the chance to play.
“We’re seeing lots of new faces coming forward and the new coaches will help us develop their skills and at the same time develop themselves as well.”
His colleague, Carl Austin, a founder member of the club, said: “We have people coming to us with drug and alcohol issues as well as those with mental health problems so the new coaches will learn about safeguarding and first aid as well as coaching so it helps them develop too.
“The ones who first started here as youngsters are now adults and one of them told me that if he hadn’t come here he would have ended up in prison – instead he has a good job and a home and a family and that just gives you a good feeling.”
Two of the new coaches are Ethan Morrison and Michael Harper and Ethan said: “Getting involved with this has helped give me a lot more confidence and I’ve now got a job as a sport teacher at Ysgol Bryn Teg and am really enjoying it.
“Here you get the quiet ones and the ones who struggle to behave and you learn to work round that and to work with them and it works very well for everyone.”
Michael added: “When I first came here as a player I was having trouble getting myself out of the house and mixing with other people but now I’ve started coaching and it’s helped me with my mental health and my confidence.
“I just saw an advert to come along here and it was easier than joining a normal football club and much more welcoming as well.”
Nicola Thomas, whose 11-year-old son, Joshua scored as he helped Wrexham Inclusion win a tournament in Stirling in Scotland this summer, said: “Josh tried to get into ordinary clubs but because of his ADHD they wouldn’t accept him.
“I found Wrexham Inclusion on the internet and he’s been coming here ever since and he’s completely different now, more confident and outgoing, and he thinks the world of his coaches.”
PACT Chair Ashley Rogers said: “It’s tremendous that PACT funding is supporting this training for coaches which is helping develop young people’s skills and providing them with qualifications and life experiences.
“Projects like the Wrexham Inclusion Football Club are providing confidence and personal growth for these vulnerable members of our local communities and giving them role models.
“What I like is the self-replicating nature of this project. The new coaches are being trained and in time will train others and it becomes a virtuous circle.
“It’s the community supporting itself with the current crop of young footballers going on to coach the next generation and it’s wonderful to see the passion and commitment of the volunteers here.
“It really is amazing how much difference what is really a small amount of money in the grand scheme of things can make in a very short time – it shows it doesn’t have to be a big sum of money to make a big difference to people’s lives.”
The project is just one of many that have been supported by PACT, an independent charity launched in 1998 to support community initiatives, particularly those in which the police are involved.
In that time it has helped over 2,500 projects in communities across North Wales.
Ashley Rogers added: “For many who are involved in the projects, this is their first interaction with the police, so making this a positive experience can have profound consequences on their future life choices.
“From Gwynedd in the west across to Flintshire and Wrexham in the east, PACT continues to support projects that enable positive and sustainable community development and this has never been more important than right now after Covid and during the cost of living crisis.”
PACT offer a range of grants of up to £2,000 for community projects – for more details and how to apply go to https://www.pactnorthwales.co.uk/applications-ceisiadau/