MENTAL HEALTH AND 5-A-SIDE
Updated: Sep 26
Last year I met the inspirational Mark Rose whose theatre and film company, Blueprint Theatre, got awarded some funding to make a documentary film about 5-a-side football. His first film, Revelations20, was made about the estate his wife and him live on, set during lockdown 2020. In the same way he wanted that film to highlight the positive aspects of council estate life, he wants his new movie to show how incredible, vital and bonding 5-a-side football is.
Mark chose to feature a few football companies, groups and people working hard behind the scenes to promote 5-a-side football in London and reached out to me last October to find out a bit more about Experience Footy. He attended a couple of coaching sessions to film and interview some of our members, and this is what he wrote after meeting us:
“I play every Sunday and barely stop thinking about the last game all week until the next one kicks off, it has that much power. I have played 5-a-side football for 15 years, it’s definitely up with the highlights of my week and I dread the day (may it never come) that my body cries ‘that’s enough, I can’t take it anymore’
The more I have played the better I have become. 5-a-side has become something I lean into and embrace as something as vital to my being as anything I can think of. It gives me balance, focus, brotherhood, physical and mental health benefits and escape. For the 60 or 90 minutes I play every Sunday morning I am lost in the moment. There is no time to think about anything else as the ball approaches me and I weigh up my options – lay it off to a teammate or turn and bang it toward goal? It’s the purest form of meditation I know (and I have tried a few) and the immersion in it is total and pure.
I think 5-a-side should be prescribed to anybody who wants to get fitter, feel better and be part of a strong community. It’s a game that gives you back as much as you are willing to put in. I may not be the player with the quickest feet or the sweetest pass but I can run all day and give 100% for the cause – the cause of 5-a-side.
What I love about Raphael’s story is his drive and dedication to growing something out of nothing. His reasons for founding it will be discussed in the film so here I will just take a moment to say that Experience Footy covers the mental health aspect that I think the game of 5-a-Side has a key part to play in.
Every Sunday people from all walks of life with many different backgrounds come together under Raphael’s tutelage and guidance to “Experience” football. It’s a friendly and supportive environment in which people are challenged to grow out of their comfort zone and to push themselves mentally and physically. This fosters a strength of community that I have witnessed first-hand, its inspiring and uplifting and that’s why it’s a story I want to capture.
To see adults who are ready to try something that they may not feel skilled or comfortable with in such a supportive and inclusive environment whilst being able to connect and find some joy and laughter is yet more evidence to me that 5-a-Side is a game that has a place to play in the wellbeing of us all as we negotiate very difficult times personally and globally.”
I have met a lot of great people since I started my journey in the world of football a few years ago, but I must say Mark is definitely the most inspiring of all. I thoroughly enjoyed our chats about life and his passion for football and especially The Red Devils is contagious. We both relate to each other’s story and agree about the importance of football when it comes to promoting good mental and physical health's.
According to the FA, one in four people experience a mental health problem in any given year and over 10% of the population have depression at any one time. Unfortunately, there are currently millions of people involved in grassroots football that have mental health problems. Sport can help in people’s recovery, help to manage symptoms and can radically improve the quality of people’s lives. Whether it’s in mainstream, community football clubs, local 5-a-side leagues, or in specialised sport and mental health projects, football can deliver massive benefits.
The pandemic certainly had an impact on everybody’s life, whether personal and/or professional, and it hasn’t been easy for any of us to adapt. Now that the pandemic seems to be behind us, it’s not always simple to go back to ‘normality’, and perhaps normal things like attending meetings in an office, having drinks with friends, or even playing football are not the norm anymore. Most of the new members joining our group express their interest to meet new people and that’s exactly what we intend to offer besides our coaching and games, for instance by going to the pub to watch a PL game after playing, as well as organising social outings on a regular basis.
One thing for sure, we are all on the same page with that and that’s why we should support and listen each other even more than before. I look forward to seeing Mark’s documentary once it gets released and helping him promote the Beautiful Game and all the community feeling that goes with it, in any way possible.
More info about Mark Rose and his work here: The Blueprint Theatre Company.