Good Causes

Helping out at club allows Brian to keep scoring goals

Brian Kirker fell in love with football as a young boy. So when the arthritis in his hips forced him to stop playing in his mid-20s he was utterly devastated.

He said, “I took it pretty bad to be honest – it was soul destroying. I wasn’t particularly good at it, but I loved it with a passion.”

Deprived of regular training sessions, games and the social life provided by his west Belfast club, 22nd Old Boys & Ladies FC, Brian filled the gap with alcohol. He said, “Let’s say I was quite a happy drinker for six months or more. I wasn’t in a good place at all.”

Fortunately, an older member of the club recognised his struggle and suggested he should train to become a volunteer coach. Brian agreed and began working for his coaching qualification at the age of 25. He said, “It massively helped me turn my life around and gave me purpose. When you see the difference you’re making it gives you real purpose.”

Volunteers like Brian make a world of difference in communities across the UK and it doesn’t take much time to get involved. That’s why The National Lottery has joined ITV and STV to help you find opportunities to lend a hand (see details at end of story).

Now aged 46, Brian is one of the most experienced volunteer coaches at 22nd Old Boys & Ladies FC. And these days he takes an interest in the players’ mental health as well as their ability to dribble, pass and shoot.

Since getting in touch with TAMHI (Tackling Awareness of Mental Health Issues), a National Lottery-funded project that works with Belfast’s schools and sporting clubs, he has learned strategies to encourage players of all ages to open up about mental health issues. He said, “TAMHI has trained me to use drills that have a mental health aspect. With kids, for example, we use games that are fun, but teach them about wellbeing.”

Brian has also trained as a mental health first-aider, helping him to spot someone who is struggling with mental health and allowing him to broach the subject with them in a supportive way.

He said, “If someone starts missing training, for example, I’ll go and talk to them and ask them if everything’s OK. Or if someone’s usually very quiet and becomes quite aggressive, it could be a sign that something is not right.”

Brian said his work as a volunteer is incredibly rewarding. He said, “Football is my passion and to have walked away from it at 24 would have been incredibly bad for me from a mental health perspective. To be involved as a volunteer coach is fantastic.”

It doesn’t matter how much time you give or what you do, get involved. Go to to see how you could ‘Miss Out to Help Out’, for top tips, inspirational stories and volunteering opportunities to make a difference now.

2nd December 2020

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