Mental health issues can affect both new students and those who have graduated. Which is why LCC graduate Connor Winks set up Soccer Painters FC last August in an attempt to beat the university blues.
It can be a big step to leave your home and camp in a grubby death-trap for £190 a week. So it’s understandable to feel slightly lost and isolated in your first few weeks. This can also be the case for those who have left university, with ever decreasing job markets adding further pressure.
“I’m sure if you asked others who helped me set this up you’d probably get a few different answers. It’s quite a personal subject for me as the project was born out of quite a dark place,” says Winks.
“I suffered from post-graduate depression when leaving university after being in education for all of my life. I found it really difficult to adjust.
“I moved back home to Hastings and felt completely cut off from this whole life I had built for myself. Whilst I kept in contact with my closest friends I found I had stopped talking to a lot of friends I had made playing for Arts.
“I was struggling to rekindle those friendships with the lack of time I got to spend in London, really having to pick and choose who I saw when I was up.”
‘I found a few of the boys who had graduated felt the same; a little bit isolated and a little bit lost’
Winks was heavily involved in UAL Football during his time studying in Elephant and Castle and captained the now disbanded third team to undoubtedly their best season in recent memory. Those UAL sporting connections meant that when visiting London from Hastings he found that many of his former teammates and friends who had graduated also felt the same.
A dark place
It can be especially isolating in London, where the housing market is relatively impenetrable for new graduates unless you get a well paid job immediately. Winks, a Sports Journalism graduate, found it difficult going into a thinning media job market and was left feeling puzzled at what to do next.
‘It’s amazing what a couple of hours with your pals not thinking about anything other than football can do for your mental health’
“When visiting London I found a few of the boys who had graduated felt the same; a little bit isolated and a little bit lost. There’s such little research into post-graduate depression and a real lack of support for something that is so prevalent and affects so many.
“I felt that doing this would not only help me and the guys who had mentioned it, but maybe a few of the other boys who might have been having trouble but didn’t feel comfortable talking about it.”
“It’s amazing what a couple of hours on a Sunday morning with your pals not thinking about anything other than football can do for your mental health. Now I hope it can carry on for anyone who might be feeling the same coming out of UAL We want to be welcoming as many graduates from Arts as possible and hopefully get something really special going.”
Soccer Painters play their football in Hackney and Leyton Division 4, with all the games at Hackney Marshes. The name reflects the players’ University of the Arts background. Winks has found the experience immensely positive.
“The main thing is everyone is still enjoying it. We marketed and ran the club at minimal cost, meaning we only charge exactly what it costs to run. It’s London, so the boys have had to put their hands in their pockets a little bit, but I would imagine we are one of the cheapest teams in the league to play for.”
Fitting in with football
Winks believes the UAL sports teams prove a vital tool for those struggling to fit into their chosen school and more could be done for those who take on the responsibility of captaining and running a side.
“The students who are voluntarily running the clubs need more support from paid employees of the SU in terms of reaching students and keeping them in the societies. Are there fliers in every uni? Every hall? Could you have a scheme helping members struggling to pay memberships but who do want to play?
“London can be a lonely place and I know the football club at uni really helped me adjust and settle when I first arrived. Most of my friends and best memories come from being involved with the sports societies and it was a huge part of my three years at UAL.
“It would be sad to think someone would not be able to experience that because there wasn’t room for them as there is no third team anymore or they just simply don’t know the university has a football team.”
Soccer Painters are a club ultimately wanting to expand, so opportunities for a game are expanding. Winks encourages those post and pre-graduation to contact the club if it you would like to get involved.
“We definitely have bigger plans. I’d personally like to get to a point where we have recruited enough graduates to have a Saturday and Sunday team and try to enter the proper English football pyramid at the bottom.”
The future looks a bright and lasting one as the club aim to utilise some of those skills he learned whilst studying at UAL.
“On top of that a few of the boys have some really interesting ideas on how to establish Soccer Painters as a brand.
“Coming from UAL we have a hugely talented team of people in terms of stuff like graphic design and we do want to utilise that. I think we’ve seen such an upturn of Sunday League teams getting huge publicity, such as teams like the The Gun, and it’s something we’re exploring currently.”
@SoccerPainters on Twitter for more info
Photos courtesy of Gabriel Daughtry – @g_daughtry on Twitter