Covid-19 and the resulting lockdown has been a challenging time, causing stress and anxiety for many. Steve Nash, a Thistle volunteer who helps facilitate Lifestyle Management Courses in Midlothian, decided to use his experience to support the wellbeing of the committee, members and players of Newtongrange Star Football Club in Dalkeith. This is his story.
“Normally you’d find me at the Club every Tuesday evening for training and every Saturday for the match. I’d be meeting up with the committee, management and players and providing support. This is all part of my role as Sports Chaplain.
Years ago there was a ‘stiff upper lip’ approach in football clubs and everyone was encouraged to ‘just get on with it’ rather than pay attention when people were feeling anxious, depressed or stressed. Players were keen to make sure that managers thought they were fit enough to be picked for the team and teams didn’t want to give the opposition the advantage of knowing a particular player was struggling with their mental health.
By having a Chaplain, players can talk to someone in complete confidence about how they’re feeling and any issues they are having. And managers can focus on developing their players as a team and still know that someone is looking out for the players’ wellbeing. This is where I identified that my experience at Thistle could prove useful to the Club through my work as Chaplain.
With lockdown, I had to think about how I could still support people even if I couldn’t physically see them and chat to them twice a week.
So, I created a twice-weekly email to provide practical ideas to help everyone maintain their mental wellbeing using what I have learnt at Thistle. I keep it topical, include practical examples and illustrations from my own experience along with cartoons and pictures.
I’ve covered topics including pacing, planning our day and being kind to ourselves. In my email about how exercise affects our feeling of wellbeing, I talked about my own experience of using the app ‘Couch to dining table 5k’, sharing my progress and the benefit I felt as a result of doing it.
Providing support in this way has been a new experience for me and I’ve really enjoyed it. I’ve also had a positive response from the Club. It’s good to hear that people have been able to apply some of the ideas I’ve shared to their own situations.
I was supported by Thistle in the past and have seen many others benefit from wellbeing coaching when I’ve helped facilitate the Lifestyle Management Course, so I know that what I’m sharing works.
How Football, Faith and Wellbeing Came Together
Football and faith have always gone hand-in-hand for me. Back in 1980, I was playing for my Church team in Birmingham and we went on tour to the USA for a fortnight. It was an amazing time and a great experience.
Growing up in Birmingham, there were two professional teams you could follow - Birmingham City and Birmingham City Reserves. There was one other small team by the name Aston Villa, but to us “Bluenoses” they are not very good or important!
Today, I live about a mile from the Newtongrange Star FC ground. I really enjoy watching football, although some may doubt this when they know my team is Birmingham City!
Back in October 2019, I was approached by Mark Fleming, Chaplain to the Scottish FA, who asked me if I’d be interested in being a Chaplain for Newtongrange Star FC. I was delighted. An opportunity to serve others and watch football? What a privilege
It was an auspicious day when I met the Club President, Joe Wilson. The team won 4-1 and the following Tuesday, I became the club’s Sports Chaplain.
Being a peer volunteer for Thistle means that I’ve been on my own journey - from someone needing support to someone able to give support. This rich experience helps me in my role as Chaplain to be the difference for someone else and develop relationships based on compassion and trust.”