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AFP
May 30, 2020

Football mentor has hands full during coronavirus lockdown

Sports

AFP
May 30, 2020

LONDON: Fitness coach and mentor Wayne Richardson has had his hands full dealing with footballers’ mental health issues in a period of unprecedented uncertainty during the coronavirus lockdown.

Richardson and his staff have spoken to about 150 players, from professionals all the way down to the grassroots during football’s hiatus.

Players have reported a number of issues, from being unable to play PlayStation with their friends to a lack of training facilities at home, but there is a common thread.

“Commonplace from grassroots, academy, scholar to first-team, players are finding it boring,” he told AFP by phone from his home in Manchester in northern England.

“‘I cannot go to my girlfriend’s, I cannot drive here or there, go to the shop.’ We have to try and keep that in check and tell them it won’t last forever.”

Richardson set up his company, Richardson Sport, with Emma Hughes in 2010. His team including fitness coaches, nutritionists, psychologists and sports mentors.

Richardson, whose recent clients include Manchester United player Odion Ighalo, says uncertainty is rife among players, although some are now preparing for a return to action.

“We work on some areas we don’t usually spend a lot of time on, listening to their worries,” he said.

“Some don’t know if they will be asked to sign a new contract and we focus on ‘are there other options for you like another career, further education?’” The Professional Footballers’ Association released figures earlier this month from a survey carried out during the pandemic that showed more than a fifth of current and former players had reported being depressed or had considered self-harm.

Richardson said one of the players he has talked to had plans to go to Scotland but the move hit trouble because two of the clubs who were interested had put their players on the government’s furlough scheme.

Speaking about the players he helps, he said: “He will shake your hand or hug you when he leaves but you can’t control their life. Sometimes it is overwhelming dealing with everything and you can’t save the whole world.”