Mental Health Awareness Week 

To recognise mental health awareness week, we have a series of articles from our youth players who open up about their struggles with mental health.

When I first joined the club I was over the moon , I was so excited to get started and I couldn’t wait for the season to start.  I loved the atmosphere,the environment, my teammates and the philosophy. I started the second league game away to Chipstead, and felt Rooney, (Daryl Coleman), James (Shaw) and a lot of the lads were starting to see my quality, and it really had me motivated until about October which was then when I was starting to not be in the Match day squads. At first I didn’t think much of it, as I didn’t expect to play all the time being  I’m young but then it was about 3 weeks and I still wasn't getting into the squad. 

I started to question my ability and other things, and I thought  'If I do well in the u23s, I’ll be right back up there in the first team'. Some of the 23s players would ask "why are you always with us now?  What happened?'  and I would reply "I don’t know!" I started to lose some motivation from then,  then I started playing average in the u23s team,  and I thought "I’m a first team player why is it happening isn’t me? Is it the players is it the level?" I just didn't know and I couldn’t put my finger on it.  The management would say to me  "If I can’t perform here why do I deserve to play for the first team?" to encourage me, but I ended up going down hill from there, I started to ping balls off the pitch and I lost my technique my identity, and honestly you could see it in my playing style. I started to question whether football was for me anymore and if going on loan was a good idea.  I just felt a bit lost.

 I didn’t get it, I would train hard and still wasn’t getting selected, and then on top of that there were 4 other players in my position that were being rotated.  It meant I felt like I was the fifth choice center midfield. I started to question 'Where did things go so wrong? Last year I was an England school boy playing for my country and this year I’m struggling to ping a ball and perform at a level I’ve bossed for years'. It got so bad that I would have quotes as my screen saver to remind me that I’m good, and  I’ve got this and I would read it everyday to try give myself motivation.

 I think things started to turn and change when I was recognised for training well, and it was clear that I would get an opportunity to prove myself  in the first team. The center midfield position was becoming a problem in terms of bringing out the identity for the team, and then I came on for the first time in about nearly 2 months and I had a really good game.  I feel this was the point where my confidence came back, as after that moment I knew I was made for this and this is my time to shine. Since then I didn’t look back, and I started performing Improving and even started to add my little flair to the teams identity, and everyone started to see my quality again and since then I never looked back. It was just on wards and upwards from then on.

Note from Cornelius about Kyrique's development - 

We (coaching staff) focus on the Four Corner Model that we believe help us analyse each individual players development (Physical,Social, Technical and Psychological)
 

We believe the most important of the four principles is the Psychological corner. Through experience we found the players that had high scores on the psychological corner; were usually able to perform at a really good level, hence us focusing on creating a healthy, encouraging and safe environment for the players to express themselves.

It was one of the reasons we recruited Kyrique from Cray Wanderers, as we had come up against him in previous seasons and saw he had all the necessary attributes to have a good career in the game. Although he excelled in all the four corners, mentally he was strong and you have have to be, as being told your the best player from 11 years to 18 years and then being told to sit on the bench and learn your craft is difficult for any athlete at any age.

We also know that any structure put in place to help players will still need a player to have a strong and positive mindset and as you can see Kyrique had his ups and downs, where he questioned his own quality and the coach’s judgement. However with the right coaching process (I.e. training, 23s matches, friendly or 1.2.1 sessions with coaches and management) we believe it gives the players that are willing to trust the process and listen a clearer prospective of how to reach their goal.

Morgan was between the sticks for the Under 23s in their double winning season and gained experience in the first team.

We hear from under 23 goalkeeper Morgan Campbell, who made the jump from AFC Croydon and has played in both the first team as well as the Under 23s. After a difficult patch in the first team, Morgan talks about his learning and gaining information from his coaches. 

Although I have not suffered from mental health challenges personally, everyone suffers self-doubt and worries in their lives at point. When people suffer some kind of mental health challenge they find it difficult to talk to anyone, because people may treat them differently and avoid them. If we all stop and listen more people will receive the help they need instead of being made to feel stupid.

Before joining Tooting & Mitcham I had just finished my 2 years college program having been playing for u23 and the first team at AFC Croydon. When I had my first training session at Tooting I knew this was a proper environment to progress in the game of football. I was training and playing well, to then get the first team call up within my first season at the club. I had a successful run of games, but then things took a turn for the worse, but Tooting's coaches kept my head up high and told me to continue and work on areas of weakness.

At tooting & Mitcham I’ve realised that there is more to the game than your ability. Although things have happened I’m enjoy playing for Tooting & Mitcham I hopefully I will be securing that number 1 spot in the starting 11 in the possible future.

Pedro pictured picking up an award in the 2016/17 season after impressing in the youth teams, where he has now progressed into the under 23s side, which he captained last season. 

In this article, we hear from under 23 captain Pedro, who speaks honestly about his struggles after being released from a previous club to joining Tooting & Mitcham in the under 15s and how his coach helped him gain his self belief again. 

Before I joined Tooting and Mitcham I had been released from another club when I was only 15 years old which was heart breaking. Being released was my lowest point in my career till this day, and it made me feel like I wasn’t good enough and that I could never bounce back from it to achieve my life long goal of becoming a professional footballer. When I first came to the club, I felt ready for a challenge and I felt like this was the club for me. Straightaway I could see a pathway through the ranks of the club which motivated me to work hard and stay committed to football. Going to a new club isn’t always easy but I felt like I had a purpose and an opportunity to show everyone what I’m capable of.

My manager in the under 15s really put faith in me which led me to work hard to prove myself to him. Few months after I was called up to train with the academy which was 2 years above my age group which made me incredibly happy and eager to go up further and further up the ranks. As time flew by, I learnt a lot of things about myself and developed myself physically and mentally and just kept putting in the work in the trainings and in matches to then being captain of the academy in my second year at the academy. By then I knew I had conquered something I never knew I could, due to the lack of confidence in myself.

Becoming captain came with opportunities to develop up in the ranks from academy to u18s to u23s to first team because mentally I was focused and hungry for more. I could see that the managers at the club liked my attitude and my play style but I knew I had to keep working hard to keep improving. From then on I just kept going forward and upwards, going on to make my first u18s appearance starting in the first eleven against the team that was top of the league and performing well, helping the team the win.

Soon after I was called up to train with the first team which was an amazing feeling adding to my confidence and hunger to keep doing more, all while still in my second year of academy. Now being the captain of the u23s, after making my u23s debut while playing for the u18s team and having made first team appearances, it’s all about believing in myself and raising my standards to earn the managers trust to play first team football and eventually cement my place in the staring eleven.