How a grassroots football club gave Jo respite from grief
When Jo Johnson’s baby son Zachary died the day after being born her world fell apart. She said, “He was born at full term and there was nothing wrong with him, but he was starved of oxygen during the delivery.”
The loss of Zachary, in October 2016, left Jo grief-stricken, filled with anxiety and struggling with social situations. She said, “I wouldn’t go anywhere without a member of my family or a close friend.”
When Jo’s daughter Ellie, now 10, decided she wanted to play football, Jo signed her up for Wyrley Juniors. The grassroots club for people of all ages and abilities has nearly 70 teams – the largest in Staffordshire.
Jo said, "Ellie started training at the Wildcats Centre when she was four years old and once she turned six, when the FA says kids are old enough to join a team, there was no one to coach them, so I offered."
Then Jo heard about the club’s veterans team Wyrley Mums and with encouragement from her husband Steven, decided to sign up.
Jo, a mortgage manager from Wolverhampton, soon found the training and matches helped her in ways grief counselling had been unable to do. She said, “I’d been going to sessions with a baby loss charity, but even though I could sit and talk it was never quite enough. But when you’re at training you forget the whole day no matter how hard it has been. The grief is gone for that hour.”
Wyrley Juniors is just one of the hundreds of grassroots football clubs across the UK to have benefitted from funding made possible by National Lottery players. Thanks to them, more than £50Million has been invested in women’s football over the past 10 years.
Jo said, “National Lottery funding meant we were able to build a clubhouse with big changing rooms and toilets for everyone – it’s been brilliant.”
Four years after her first visit to Wyrley Juniors, Jo is captain of her team and the club has become an essential part of her life. She said, “The club has completely turned my life around, giving me back my confidence – I couldn’t do without it.”
19th July 2023
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