Inside Matters

'PL Inspires Challenge has allowed us to have a positive impact on others'

By Mark Orlovac 9 May 2024
Premier League Inspires Challenge 2024 composite v2

Find out what happened at this year's PL Inspires Challenge celebration event, as young people showcased their projects to raise mental health awareness

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More than 200 young people from across England and Wales came together recently at Wembley Stadium to showcase their ideas for raising mental health awareness in their local communities, as part of the Premier League's Inside Matters campaign.

The celebration event was the culmination of this year's Premier League Inspires Challenge, which empowers participants to take on a social action project and make a difference to the world around them.

Teams representing 45 professional football clubs were in attendance, as they presented their proposals, attended workshops and gained inspiration from other young people.

The Challenge is one part of Premier League Inspires, which is delivered with partnership support from the Professional Footballers' Association and allows clubs to support 11–18-year-olds who may be at risk of not reaching their potential as they move through the education system and early adulthood.

Here are the stories of some of the people that took part.

Lola, Nottingham Forest Community Trust
Premier League Inspires Challenge 2024, Nottingham Forest, Lola

This is really is close to my heart. It's a topic that's really talked about around me, so how can I make other people comfortable with it too?

We have designed a workshop aimed at spreading mental health awareness in primary schools. A lot of the parents of the girls in the team work in schools and we're surrounded by education. If we can be there talking to kids before they go through difficult times it will make them aware of what to look out for.

When I first went into the primary school to deliver the workshop I was quite panicked, as I struggle with worry, but as I realised how much we're making an impact and how much the children are enjoying learning about mental health, it made me so much happier.

I'm in a group with all of my friends and it's brought me a lot closer to them. It's given me something to think about, to focus on and make my mental health better as well.

Being part of the Premier League Challenge has given me a lot more confidence and helped me work a lot better with people and in groups. It's introduced me to new people and new ideas.

PL Inspires means that you can do anything. You can change somebody's hour, day, you can change somebody's life, just by doing one thing. One thing has so much impact.

Azaria, Fulham FC Foundation
Premier League Inspires Challenge 2024, Fulham, Azaria

I got involved because I wanted to do something for other people, I wanted to have an impact on their lives, to make a difference. It's so important to look after your mental health. If you're struggling, having good knowledge and learning about how you can talk to someone is key to having a good life.

Our project is called 'Fulham Support' which involves going into local care homes to support the elderly. They might be alone and they might be struggling with their mental health but they don't want to bother anyone. So we decided to do fun activities with them; rock painting, letter painting and walks.

I've got to meet some wonderful and lovely people. I'm more confident because in the beginning, I felt that I wouldn't be able to do this. However, once I started, I believed in myself. I feel really happy that I've maybe helped somebody when they're feeling down.

I am so proud of myself and the girls. I'll take away from this that it's OK to be struggling through something, you don't need to hide it.

Archie, Sheffield United Community Foundation
Premier League Inspires Challenge 2024, Sheffield United, Archie

We wanted to address the issue of mental health by interviewing first-team players including Blades forward Cameron Archer about handling pressure and his mental health. We could relate to him. Everyone has things they are dealing with.

It makes me feel happy seeing what we have done. When we started we didn't know what would happen but it turned out to be a good idea!

I wanted to be involved because I thought it would contribute to my wellbeing and make me braver in speaking out. I'm not that good at talking in public or doing a speech, but this has helped me gain more confidence.

I am thankful to be a part of the event at Wembley, with all these people who have been working on the same subject as us. Speaking up about mental health can have a big impact on your feelings. If you're not speaking out about what's happening and you bottle it up, it's going to make you feel sad.

Charlie and Evan, AFC Bournemouth Community Sports Trust
Premier League Inspires Challenge 2024, Charlie and Evan, AFC Bournemouth

All of us in the group are from military families and we've moved around quite a lot. When you move, you have to leave your friends behind. It's hard, you don't really know anyone.

In the military, one of your parents go away - sometimes for a year or two - and children sometimes struggle because they miss them.

So the first thing we said was that our project should relate to the army because of our background and because if parents are away, you can't really go out a lot of time.

We created the Walking Cherries group to promote walking and the positive impact of being outside. With this, you don't have to spend all your time on a games console. You can get out, do some physical exercise.

These walks have helped us. Some people in this group we didn't really know before but we do now.

We're always excited to go to the Premier League Inspires group, we do so many different things. It's definitely helped with our mental health and helped us be calmer. We're really proud to have done something like this.

Dan Mason, Premier League Inspires officer, Saints Foundation
Premier League Inspires Challenge 2024, Dan Mason, Southampton

I work in the Compass School in Southampton, which is a specialist alternative provision for pupils who require additional support because of being permanently excluded or at risk of being excluded.

A lot of these students have gone through mental health struggles themselves so they were really passionate about putting this project into action. Their idea is a lunchtime club for students which allows them to get together and talk to teachers and other students, no matter what kind of day they are having. It's been really successful.

The teachers also got involved by expressing mental health struggles that they have. That surprised the students and I've seen a big change in how they interact with the teachers now.

This will give the group a massive can-do feeling, that their opinions are being valued, a sense that they are the leaders and are no different to anyone else. It's an opportunity to show everyone what they can do.

Premier League Inspires Challenge 2024, Southampton

It's a perfect way for them to end their time at school. To have students from across the country coming over and saying, 'that's a really good idea, you lot smashed it', is going make a massive difference to their confidence.

I am so proud of the progress they've made. We know they are not going to make massive steps straightaway but they've showed a lot of maturity. For us, the job we do and the students we work with, that's all we want.

Keichardae, Arsenal in the Community
Premier League Inspires Challenge 2024, Arsenal, Keichardae

I don't think young people's mental health is discussed enough so our project is to host free football sessions and mental health talks for secondary school girls and boys.

This will help a lot of young people express themselves in a safe space where they won't get judged. It's important because when you let go of what you're feeling and what is worrying you, you will feel better.

I'm proud of the team that we're trying to do something that will help and make a difference to lots of people's lives.

It's fantastic that we have an opportunity to come to Wembley, represent Arsenal and to tell people about our aim of changing how people feel about themselves and boosting their confidence.

Imogen, Wolves Foundation
Premier League Inspires Challenge 2024, Wolves, Imogen

Our idea is to spread mental health awareness by mimicking a Wolves starting line-up, but changing the player's name in the line-up to a word associated with mental health, such as lonely, anxiety or scared. To make it more personal, we wanted the player in that position to pick a word, something possibly that they or someone that they know have dealt with.

We also aim to create a video featuring leaders from the men's and women's teams talking about mental health, the importance of speaking up and how they look after their mental health.

It's so important to talk about mental health. So many people deal with problems behind closed doors. We want to help people think that they are enough and it's OK to deal with these emotions and feelings, it shouldn't be talked about in a negative way.

I continuously overthink things, that I'm not doing enough and pressure used to get to me a lot within school. But being a part of the Premier League Inspires Challenge has massively helped me. These incredible people have helped me talk more about my feelings. They have made me feel safe. 

Being here and representing the club I love is incredible. Wolves is such a big part of my family, my community. When I go home I'll be really proud of myself and my team for helping more people talk about mental health.

Alana, Newcastle United Foundation
Premier League Inspires Challenge, Newcastle, Alana

I've always struggled with my mental health and sometimes I just don't want to go to school. Being a part of this programme has helped me a lot. I've felt better in myself as our group have got on really well and talked a lot.

Our project is a campaign highlighting the 'five ways of wellbeing'. It makes me feel good that I'm having a positive impact on people, making them feel better, especially for the Year 7s when they first start at secondary school.

That period of time was very daunting for me, so I like to help them out. I can understand because I've been through the same thing. 

It's been really nice to come to Wembley, I've never been to London before. So just going on the Tube and seeing it all has been a fantastic opportunity. I feel blessed. Looking at all the amazing projects produced by the other teams and how much effort has been put in is amazing.

This has definitely inspired something in me. I want to work in the police force but I would like to work on the mental health side as well; helping people to talk. It would be amazing to be there for people.

For further mental health support, fans can head to: Get help | Mental Health Foundation

What is Premier League Inspires?

Premier League Inspires uses the appeal of football to help children and young people aged 11-18 to develop the personal skills and positive attitude to succeed in life. More than 29,000 young people have received more than 125,000 hours of targeted support across 960+ schools and educational facilities since the programme's launch in 2019.

The programme is delivered by 45 professional football club community organisations and is supported by the Professional Footballers' Association and the Premier League. More than £11.1m has been invested into the programme, via the Premier League Charitable Fund.

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