Throughout this season, the Leyton Orient Community Sports Programme (LOCSP) have been running an exciting project called Coping Through Football which aims to use the power of football to transform the lives of people who suffer from mental health problems.
Each week the scheme sees around 20 participants get together at the SCORE Centre opposite the Matchroom Stadium for sessions that are based around small sided games and skills work.
Alex Welsh the Chief Executive of London Playing Field Foundation, explained to us a bit more about the scheme, he said: “Coping through football is an innovative project that looks at transforming the way people with long term mental health issues are treated. It uses the power of sport to help them recover lost self-esteem and confidence and help them be much more interactive and obviously physically fitter. Ultimately to help them lead more independent lives.”
Last week we invited a group from a similar scheme at Arsenal down to the astro-turf at the SCORE centre for a full size match, which the O’s ended up winning 3-0.
Welsh was delighted with the way that the day went, he continued: “Today was about playing a game of 11 a side as normally they do a warm up, technical work and small sided games and some sided they really look forward to an 11 a side.
“There’s a similar group at Arsenal so today was a great opportunity to bring them together and just have a game. It’s about doing things that are essentially normal. When you have a mental health problem you can feel like you are being treated differently when all you want is normality.
“It’s typical of Leyton Orient too, they’ve always had this history of putting things back into the community and they might be a League One club on the pitch but they’re in the Champions League when it comes to community work and always have been.”
Orient goalkeeper Lee Butcher was in attendance and was on hand to provide advice and medals after the game to all the participants.
He said: “It’s great to come down and see the guys play, it’s good for the people. Football is one language really, everyone enjoys it, plays with a smile on their face. One of the best things about football is how it brings people together and we’ve seen that today.”
Having been out injured in recent months, Butcher has played a key part in the club’s community work and it’s something he’s enjoyed.
“Obviously I hate being injured but it has given me more of chance to do the community work which I really enjoy. It’s a great feeling when you see how much your visits mean to people,” he said.
To find out more about Coping Through Football visit www.copingthroughfootball.org