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Friday 13 May 2022
Ahead of the Game set for expansion with youth programme

Plans are in the pipeline to expand Ahead of the Game, the Irish FA Foundation’s mental health programme for clubs.

AOTG, which is funded by the UEFA Hat-trick programme, has benefitted numerous coaches and volunteers in football clubs across Northern Ireland since it was launched in 2017.

However, as part of the annual Mental Health Awareness Week, the foundation has now unveiled plans to bring it to a younger audience.

It said that although many young people have benefitted from input by coaches and volunteers at their clubs, they should have their own bespoke mental health awareness programme.

Irish FA Foundation staff and partners have decided that something bespoke will be created for those aged 14 to 17 to address specific issues they may face around their mental health.

Key areas to be discussed could include: exam pressures and changing schools, resilience/coping with grief, coping with anxiety, body image, bullying, sleep, gambling awareness and nutrition.

The foundation is working with partners Tackling Awareness of Mental Health Issues (TAMHI) and Inspire Wellbeing to deliver the initiative.

A spokersperson for Inspire Wellbeing said: “After a tough couple of years, the mental wellbeing of our young people is high on everyone’s agenda and the Irish FA Foundation have more than risen to this challenge.  

“The whole team at Inspire are delighted to be working with them again to build on the success of our Ahead of the Game partnership and develop a programme of support that aims to help young people focus on their mental health as well as their physical health.”

There will be a series of pilots taking place in the coming months. If you think your club members (aged 14-17) could avail of this please register your interest with Kyle Robinson, the Irish FA Foundation’s Club and Community Development Officer, at kyle.robinson@irishfa.com.

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Meanwhile the Irish FA Foundation is also encouraging clubs to take part in its Ahead of the Game workshops. 

The programme is all about starting the conversation around mental health.

The toolkit developed to form the material for a workshop has been rolled out to over 120 football clubs in the last five years.

It provides clubs with greater mental health awareness, aims to help reduce the stigma around mental health. 

If you are interested in holding an Ahead of the Game workshop in your club, please get in touch with kyle.robinson@irishfa.com

Find out more about Ahead of the Game here