Sam Dawson: the Brunsmeer Awareness story so far

Brunsmeer Awareness FC is a community enterprise supported by Sheffield Flourish. It provides an opportunity for people living with mental health conditions to participate in organised, competitive team sport in a friendly supportive environment. We are fortunate to work with a number of partners, all of whom bring invaluable expertise and guidance.

The project began its journey back in 2013. The adventure has taken us from a kick about in the grounds of the Northern General Hospital, to where we are now, a team affiliated with the Football Association, playing competitive matches in 7 aside and an 11 aside leagues.

From those humble beginnings, playing on a poorly surfaced court in the hospital grounds, word spread across various inpatient wards, more players joined and the group soon grew too big for its environment.

Sheffield Health & Social Care Trust (SHSC) supported us to hire an indoor pitch at Ponds Forge. This move enabled us to advertise the session across all mental health services in the city and the group continued to grow.

Sheffield & Hallamshire Football Association (S&HFA) came on board in 2014 and they have been instrumental in propelling us forward. They helped to negotiate a good deal at the Power League venue on Woodbourn Road, where the group has been based for around 4 years. With the help of S&HFA, we have been successful in applying for funding to set us up with a new playing kit, equipment and coaching time. They have also supported a number of our players and staff to enrol on coaching courses e.g. FA level 1 and Sports Leadership award.

Next on board, in 2015, was the Sheffield United Community Foundation (SUCF). They provided qualified coaches to lead the sessions. This brought about a more structured/professional feeling session incorporating warm ups, appropriate/enjoyable training exercises and some work on developing fitness.

The next step was to establish the partnership with Sheffield Flourish. This relationship enabled us to access a rich source of volunteers who can coproduce and develop the project. It also meant we could widen the net in terms of attracting new players. Being a part of the wider Flourish family allows the team to tap into a network of advice and information and to discuss issues with other recovery projects under the Flourish wing. We also benefit from vital administrative support, including financial management and accounting.

For the next 18 months, the weekly session continued to thrive and a core group of regulars emerged. In 2016 we sat down with the core members to establish a steering team and started to have discussions about the direction we wanted the group to go in. From these discussions we established a number of aims

  • The formation of a competitive football team
  • For the team to compete in an organised/established league
  • To purchase a team kit
  • For members to be able to gain coaching qualifications

This led us to the final piece of the jigsaw. The group initially wanted to establish a new football club with its own name, kit, badge etc. It quickly became apparent that this would be a huge task and forming a link with a well run, well respected, established club would be massively beneficial. S&HFA put us in touch with Brunsmeer Athletic. Becoming part of the wider Brunsmeer Athletic club initially helped on a very practical level. It enabled us to tap into their existing infrastructure; this helped with a constitution, insurance and meant we could become part of their committee with treasurers, welfare officers etc, rather than having to start our own from scratch.

More importantly though, it connected the team with the broader community and promoted awareness of the project to a wider, mainstream, audience. Brunsmeer Athletic have welcomed us with open arms and made us feel very much part of the club. We have been able to use their pitch for matches and have our sessions published in their newsletters.

Football offers an alternative way to engage with people who may not access traditional mental health support services, helping to bring people together through shared interests, improving their physical health and wellbeing while also reducing loneliness and isolation.

The team is continuing to go from strength to strength – this year we won the Yorkshire and Humber Academic Health Sciences Network’s Performance Through Partnership Innovation, Improvement and Impact Award. Our hard work and achievements have been recorded in this fantastic video (above), where you can watch the team in action. To get involved check out the Brunsmeer Awareness webpage.

– Sam Dawson, Team Coordinator

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