Gary Caldwell leads coaching session for ex-servicemen.Wigan Athletic Manager Gary Caldwell and First Team Coach Joe Parkinson took over coaching at the Community Trust’s Football 4 Forces programme last week, leading a session at Robin Park for ex-servicemen that are taking part in the football scheme.
The project provides weekly football activities for ex-servicemen living in Wigan, aiming to improve their physical and mental health and to help them feel less socially isolated.
Through the scheme participants also have the chance to train to become fully qualified football coaches themselves.
Gary and Joe put the players through their paces in the action-packed hour of coaching, making sure that everyone, regardless of their footballing ability, got the most that they could out of the session.
Gary said: “The session was great, it’s always good to give something back to people who do a great deal for us. They seemed to enjoy it, they were a bit out of breath at the end but they had good fun, so overall I’m really happy to come and do something like this.
“I think the programme’s amazing, these guys do something that is great for us all, so for us to provide them with this sort of initiative to come and keep fit and get into a sport as they come out of the armed forces, it’s only good for them and good for us as a community to provide the opportunity.”
Paul Day, who served in the British Army for 27 years, said: “The armed forces is like a club, but outside it isn’t the same. Projects like Football 4 Forces help to replicate that sense of belonging and being part of something that you get in the armed forces, so it’s great for that reason.
“You need something like this to occupy your mind when you come out of the armed forces. You don’t need to talk about your experiences with others straight away, that comes with time, but I’ve found that coming and playing here, there’s a great group of lads to make new friends with as well as meeting back up with others that you’ve served with in the past, that you can share stories with and talk to about things that others outside of the forces may not understand.
The Football 4 Forces programme is part of Latics’ ongoing commitment to supporting the armed forces community in Wigan and follows the Club’s signing of the Armed Forces Covenant last summer.
Major Dave Harvey of the 42nd Infantry Brigade said: “The Ministry of Defence are actually supporting the programme to help support the veterans that are living in the Wigan area, and you can see it’s having such a massive impact for them, helping to boost camaraderie, getting their fitness up, getting them out of the house and getting to meet each other. The support that Wigan Athletic are providing to our veterans is absolutely phenomenal and hopefully others will take the lead from Wigan.
The scheme is funded by the Ministry of Defence’s Covenant Fund and Wigan Borough Clinical Commissioning Group and is supported by Wigan Council.
Linda Fisher, Assistant Director at Wigan Council and Lead Officer for the Armed Forces in Wigan and Greater Manchester, said: “Within the Wigan Borough we believe we have something like 22,000 veterans and people are obviously leaving the armed forces all the time. What we’re trying to do in Wigan is be ready to support people if they need it, to offer things like this fantastic programme and really give people opportunities to do recreational sports, to meet, to network and to have support in the community.
“The Football 4 Forces programme is helping people to benefit from a health and social point of view, plus some of the guys are now doing coaching qualifications through the programme, which means they can get better employment opportunities or they may go into coaching themselves. Hopefully they can all keep the legacy of this programme going.”
Trish Anderson, Chief Officer of Wigan Borough Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “The issues for us are around how we can help to repay some of the debt to people who serve in the armed forces and are coming back home and settling back into the community, and how we can do that in a way that helps people to look after themselves, improve their health, their general sense of wellbeing and their integration back into local services that they might have been away from for years, in a way that isn’t particularly health focused.
“Football is an activity that people who like sport can join in with at any level, so I think that will be a real draw for people who will think, ‘I can do that’. I think we’ll get more and more people who will start to join in because it makes you feel engaged and part of something, which is great for our mental wellbeing too and sense of self-worth, so there are huge benefits from programmes like this.”
Football 4 Forces sessions take place at the following times and locations:
- Football 4 Forces – Leigh Sports Village, Sale Way, Leigh, WN7 4JY – Wednesday 6.00pm – 7.00pm
- Football 4 Forces – Robin Park Arena, Loire Drive, Wigan, WN5 0UH – Thursday 5.30pm – 7.30pm
- Walking Football 4 Forces – Wigan Youth Zone, Parsons Walk, Wigan, WN1 1RU – Wednesday 1.00pm – 3.00pm
To find out more about the Football 4 Forces programme, please contact Chris Baxter, project co-ordinator, on 01942 488 530 or email firstname.lastname@example.org