As is well known, having the player’s ‘out in the community’ is an important and integral part of the work of the Club and Trust, enhancing their overall reputations amongst peers and within the local community itself.
Even before the season kicks-off, players are invited to summer fetes and school fayres whilst a variety of requests start to accumulate for players to attend various appointments ranging from presenting awards to inspiring students to endorsing anti-racism.
The O’s lads are assigned to appointments once they have completed their PFA forms and highlighted anything they might not be comfortable doing or by contrast, something they associate with e.g. an old school visit or even something they may be working towards e.g. coaching badges.
“I won’t send a player to somewhere he’s not comfortable: for example, a hospital or hospice,” said Howard Gould, Club Community Liaison Officer. “But on the other hand, if one is working towards his coaching badges, it makes sense to attend a school and run a short session, aiding in the skills he’ll need at assessment time!”
Some players are also identified as ‘ambassadors’ and will lead on community initiatives such as racism; health; education. One such ambassador was midfielder Alex Lawless. His role was to support the award-winning mental health project Coping Through Football.
Coping Through Football is a transformational project that demonstrates how two sporting charities - London Playing Fields Foundation and Leyton Orient Trust - can work with the NHS (in the shape of NELFT) to produce a sustainable recovery model approach to engage with and improve the wellbeing of adults and young people experiencing mental health issues, with football as its nucleus.
Alex attended sessions held at the Score centre in Leyton and on one occasion led a warm-up followed by a shooting practice (as he will be taking his UEFA ‘B’ award in the summer) whilst he was also a guest of honour at the now annual Christmas luncheon held at the Douglas Eyre centre in Walthamstow.
And alongside Martin Ling, Alex was also on hand to inspire and hand out the medals at the annual Mental Health day tournament last October.
“It’s a wonderful project and seeing how the players enjoy themselves and are using football to get their lives back on track is truly heartening. I’m very pleased to be able to visit and chat to the participants and am honoured to be called an ambassador,” stated Alex.
Although every player in the O’s squad had paid at least one community visit throughout the season and there were other ambassadorial roles, Alex’s commitment and enthusiasm was second to none and he thoroughly deserved the award from the Leyton Orient Trust as their Player in the Community.