Today is #InternationalVolunteersDay and we would like to celebrate all of our amazing volunteers, who are the backbone to everything that Street Soccer do. This week, we spoke to a volunteer working in Edinburgh, who was able to share his story with us.
“I’ve been volunteering for around 5 years. I was in homeless accommodation at the time – my life was in a bit of a crisis and I had addiction issues too. I was a participant first but Robbie suggested that I should come along to a youth session to help out. I’ve kept at it week in, week out since then and I really enjoy it.
It’s amazing thing to be a part of. When you have mental health and addiction issues, this is something that can really help you on your journey. Beforehand, I didn’t care who seen me when I was struggling and I didn’t care what they thought, when I started to see some of the kids from the sessions around in Edinburgh, that changed. I felt I couldn’t continue the way I was and I needed to stay fresh for the sessions.
Building relationships with other coaches was key to changing my perception but the main thing was understanding the responsibility that came with my role and ensuring I can be a positive role model, as that’s something some of these kids haven’t had.
When I first came to Street Soccer as a participant, I realised the structure and the routine that came with the sessions helped my physical and mental wellbeing. The more football I was getting, the less I was out drinking. It was a balancing act that I gradually got under better control.
My motto is ‘be what you needed as a kid’. I needed someone to look up to as a child. I needed support and encouragement and I now strive off giving that to someone else. I needed to make sure I was a positive role model on and off the pitch. Being with Street Soccer has been special and it allows so many people to come together to share their passion of football. I’ve had tremendous support from Street Soccer and they’ve helped me a lot in tough times, and volunteering has been a privilege.
I feel part of a community here and I feel the respect from other players, which was a massive change for me. Part of my journey has allowed me to be a mentor with a partner organisation too. This young lad was struggling, had been bullied and needed someone there for him. This was a new experience but has been massive. I’ve not always been brave for myself but when you’re looking after someone who is vulnerable, you become more protective and stronger as an individual.
I could relate to a lot of his issues. I understood what he was going through and the adversity he faced. It went from strength to strength and I wouldn’t change that experience for the world.
Being a volunteer with Street Soccer has given me real purpose. Sometimes, I have to pinch myself. It goes back to my motto: ‘be what you needed as a kid’, that’s always kept me going and I believe if more people focused on that then the world would be a better place. My role is great, its funny, its challenging and keeps me focused. I am under control of my life choices now and that’s mostly down to my coaching role with Street Soccer. It’s incredible.”