This weekend we travelled on what we hope is our first of many mini residential.
Hosted by Liverpool Homeless Football Club, we played the inaugural OXPOOL cup.
It is physically a lot of miles from oxford, and mentally a whole new experience for the majority.
It’s a journey that was also a metaphor of the life of the lads that came and the volunteers that went with them.
Some missed the opportunity for a variety of reasons, that is not unusual, the people we engage with OUR players, no matter how good the incentive, still can’t grasp it when it comes knocking.
Preparation from the volunteers and myself was fraught with many frustrating moments and hundreds of phone calls.
We set off in our normal late fashion, the best laid plans and all that.
In Liverpool the nervous banter came out as did the terrible attempts at scouse accents.
We had arranged a walking tour of the city which not everyone was so keen on , half went back to the accommodation and the rest stayed.
Interestingly the half that went, expressed how at first they didn’t want to do it either, but came back full of energy and positivity from the experience. They surprised themselves and me.
It was at this moment I realised, the journey was really unfolding before my eyes.
Taking people out their environment and into new surroundings, for some is scary. Asking them to try new things is difficult, I lost count of how many times players asked me what’s happening next.
The need for reassurance was tangible, the need to test the boundaries was real.
And yet they all were changing slowly, relaxing into the situation and their new surroundings.
Some more naturally then others, it’s these coping strategies that we ALL rely on in everyday life.
Constantly reevaluating the situations life throws at us and for the most part rolling with the punches.
During the match on the Sunday, you see the issues manifest themselves and how different individuals cope in different ways.
How do you cope when things get tough or life seems unfair?, the coping skills varied from walking away to digging in, from confronting head on to laughing them off.
In football as in life we learn and we adapt, in truth there is no right or wrong way just what works.
We lost the match 8-4, but made new friends and went on a journey, it may not have changed us permanently, it did plant seeds of change that may grow.
The proof, if any is needed, that football can be used to change peoples lives, was found on the trip home.
One of our players who openly admitted he was addicted to cannabis, was stating after the match.
“my legs are knackered” he said.
” but it’s strange, I haven’t smoked(cannabis) all weekend and my body feels alive!!”
That is something that will stick with him I hope for along time. It’s part of the JOURNEY!!!!