Community and Connection

Football Beyond Borders

Using the power of football to improve the mental health of young people

Football Beyond Borders (FBB) offers mental health support to disadvantaged young people at a low annual cost. Many of the young people FBB supports have diagnoses of Special Educational Needs or Special Educational Needs and Disabilities and there is also a prevalence of the ‘invisible’ young people who have experienced trauma and/or have multiple Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). Sometimes their mental health needs are undiagnosed, or even where they are diagnosed, adolescents are often unwilling to overcome the stigma attached to receiving help.

A high proportion of young people they support are boys from Black and/or Caribbean backgrounds. Within the context of societal disadvantage where racial inequality is rife, these boys are six times more likely to be excluded than their white counterparts, which makes for complex challenges.

Relatable staff drawn from the community

The programme will target and provide early intervention to economically disadvantaged young people between the ages of 11-14 years old and at risk of social exclusion and/or school exclusion. Working with 8 partner schools in Croydon, Lambeth, Lewisham and Southwark, FBB has developed a collaborative referral system triangulated between school, parent and young person.

The programme will benefit young people by providing a supportive relationship with an empathetic and relatable role model, who will be a UKCP/BACP qualified counsellor or therapist. FBB has built a multi-disciplinary team of teachers, coaches, youth workers, social workers and therapists with a range of skills. In addition to having advanced therapeutic qualifications, the team is also representative of the communities from which their young participants come, bringing relatable lived experience to their work.

Through the development of a therapeutic relationship, the young people will engage with their positive and negative emotions in a safe and secure context. They will learn to identify and share their emotions and develop coping mechanisms that encourage improved mental wellbeing.

Establishing the power of sports-based therapy

FBB is on a broader mission to transform the nature of therapeutic support for disengaged adolescents. They aim to see football therapy and wider sports-based therapies become as common as art therapy and dance therapy.

Funding from Maudsley Charity will allow them to take the next step in creating an accredited approach to using sports to deliver therapeutic interventions, both in the UK and beyond, answering the question of whether it is possible for distrustful, disengaged adolescents to commit to long term counselling and whether young people who have experienced multiple ACEs can improve their mental health and have improved education outcomes through long term counselling.

To learn more about Football Beyond Borders visit their website at