Worthing Dads play first 11-a-side football match and raise over £1,100 for West Sussex Mind

August 2023

A group of dads played their first ever 11-a-side match against Steyning Saints last weekend, tasting victory with a 5-2 win. The match was the culmination of a weekly football meet for dads to exercise and support each other’s mental health

On Sunday 27 August, Worthing Dads (WOD) defeated Steyning Saints 5-2 at Steyning Town FC’s ground in an exciting charity match, which saw the men raise over £1,100 for West Sussex Mind and raise awareness about men’s mental health.

The mixed-abilities group, who play social seven-a-side football every Monday, organised the match in aid of West Sussex Mind, because mental health has affected several players in the WOD team, including the captain and two-goal hero of the match, Jack Skinner.

Jack, 30, said he faced some “dark times”, including an attempt to take his own life, after losing his aunt to cancer in 2018. But joining WOD in 2022 after moving from Crawley to Worthing was a massive turning point for him.

“My auntie was a very big part of my life,” said Jack. “When she passed, it felt like I’d lost my mum. The months that followed were dark ones... and I felt a huge change: I didn’t enjoy the things I used to and I started to disengage with life... I attempted to take my own life, as I couldn’t handle it any more. [Joining] Worthing Dads football was a massive turning point for me... it’s a safe space where you feel like you can open up and encourage others to do the same.”

Worthing Dads began life as a monthly kick-about in 2018, set up by John Burton and Sam Hale, to give dads a safe space to socialise, support each other and get some much-needed exercise. Since then, it has grown to a two-hour weekly session at Worthing Leisure Centre with up to 21 players taking part most weeks.

Founder John Burton said: “I am really proud of what has been achieved – the creation of a group where it’s okay to be sad and to share your worries, safe in the knowledge that Worthing Dads has your back. This was [perfectly] demonstrated on Sunday with a brilliant result, brilliant amount of money raised and a brilliant day out for all our friends and family.”

The Worthing Dads and Steyning Saints come together post-match

Worthing Dads and Steyning Saints come together for a post-match photo

The team said it had a great turnout on the day, with friends and family from both Worthing Dads and Steyning Saints turning up to support. For some of the Worthing Dads, it was the first time their children had watched them play, so it was a proud moment for them and apparently their children are still talking about it now!

After the match, a number of players shared their stories and talked about their mental health, which John said “was a really touching end to the event.”

The last word goes to captain Jack, who scored two of Worthing Dads’ goals and for whom the group has been such a game-changer:

“Our charity match really was a peak for our group. It made me feel extremely proud to see the group of dads go out there, out of their comfort zone and be part of a super event: to show others that when you are at rock bottom, there is always light at the end of the tunnel – and charities like West Sussex Mind will help you find that light.”

Thank you and congratulations to Worthing Dads for a sterling performance in their debut 11-a-side match!

The Worthing Dads’ Just Giving page is still open for donations.