A former Higher Education student from Cheshire College – South & West has a starring role in the new documentary “Sidelined.” The emotionally charged film by Ben Marlow and Jack Tompkins gives insight into the individual accounts of football player’s mental health, after being released from academies or clubs due to deselection, injury or retirement.
Richard (Rich) Wilkinson is a former football player who, despite playing for his club for several years, was unexpectedly deselected. “Sidelined” deals with the aftermath of being released from clubs and coaches; and the battles with poor mental health and addiction which some players subsequently face.
After struggling with his own mental health, Rich decided to help others by training to become a counsellor. Realising that he had missed a significant portion of his education due to football training, Rich returned to Cheshire College as an adult in 2016, studying a Bachelor of Science degree in Person-Centred Counselling, facilitated by Derby University.
Reflecting on his return to education, Rich admitted: “I was always apprehensive about studying in my mid-thirties and returning to college, but the Higher Education department and the facilities are a credit to Cheshire College. The transition was straightforward, the support from staff was outstanding, and the environment was stunning.”
Rich’s degree supervisor was Cheshire College’s Counselling Lecturer, Rowena Clayton, who also has a cameo in “Sidelined.” When the documentary was being created, Rich specifically requested that the team use Cheshire College as one of the filming locations.
“I wanted to find a place where I felt comfortable talking about my story and my achievements with someone who understood my passion and believed in me. That was Rowena. For me, this journey began at Cheshire College, and it will always be at the core of my story.”
Speaking of her involvement in the film, Rowena commented: “I feel very honoured to have been a part of Richard’s journey; from the Person-Centred degree which he successfully completed at Cheshire College, through to the making of this documentary by Ben and Jack. I’ve found that all that glitters in the world of football is not gold and this long-awaited documentary shines a light into a dimly lit area of football where mental health is often ignored and side-lined, at great cost to the individual.”
Rich maintains that there is a lack of mental health support for professional footballers but hopes that media like “Sidelined” will help players to acknowledge their own mental health needs. “When you see the vulnerability in the ex-players in the documentary, it helps others to understand that it’s okay to share how you feel and sit with vulnerability, and hopefully, it shows that our mental health is just as (if not more) important than our physical health.”
The full “Sidelined” documentary is available to watch at www.sidelinedfilm.org.
Cheshire College are now accepting applications for September 2023 for those interested in studying a diverse range of Higher Education subjects.
Visit www.ccsw.ac.uk to find out more.