Mark Roddwell began attending sessions with Albion in the Community back in 2015, initially joining the charity’s weekly wellbeing football sessions.
Struggling with anxiety, stress, and worries over his housing situation, the chance to rediscover his love of football while getting active, developing a new group of friends, and expanding his support network was too good to pass up.
Partially sighted, he was also soon representing Albion in the Community in matches and tournaments and taking part in sessions for adults with a disability.
It had a profound impact on him, and he began to better cope with the challenges he faced while drastically improving his mental health.
For Mark though, benefiting from the support Albion in the Community provided was not enough. Now in a better place, he wanted to do all he could to ensure others could benefit from the same opportunities he had.
He began helping at sessions and quickly qualified as first an FA Level One coach and then an FA Level Two coach. Fast forward to the current season and Mark is now a key member of Albion in the Community’s team of community coaches, providing vital support and encouragement to young people with a disability. He is also a fantastic role mode.
Paul Brackley, Albion in the Community’s disability manager, nominated Mark for the award, and was keen to highlight just how much of an impact the coach has on the people he works with.
“Mark is a fantastic coach,” explained Paul, “but more than that, he is a fantastic person.
“He has worked so hard to overcome his own challenges and is now absolutely determined to support other people who may be going through similar things.
“Mark is happy to share his own experiences with others and is always there to provide support and encouragement where it is most needed.
“He is an absolute credit to himself and the charity.”
Such has been his determination to help Albion in the Community, Mark has also volunteered at many of the charity’s fundraising events and is among the most energetic bucket collectors at Albion in the Community’s annual takeover game at The Amex. He has also previously encouraged his employers and colleagues to join his fundraising efforts.
As humble as ever, though, Mark says he is just pleased to be able to give something back to a charity he says has had a huge impact on his life.
“Albion in the Community helped me fall in love with football again,” he revealed. “I was going through a hard time. Becoming involved with Albion in the Community made me realise there is help out there.
“There were days when football was my reason for getting up. You’d think, I’ve got football today, that’s great. Having that and having someone to talk it, it helped me so much.
“As a coach I just want to make sure people know that help is there for them as well, that there are people who will know what they are going through. We might not all have the same mental health challenges, or the same disability, but there is a connection; being involved with Albion in the Community is like being part of a family.”
A passionate Albion fan, Mark is clear what his favourite memory as a player is – scoring at The Amex. But even that can’t compare with helping a young player with a disability achieve their goals on the pitch.
He explained: “It is all about getting people to realise they can do things, rather than them thinking they can’t.
“Seeing a player score their first ever goal and how they react and celebrate - you can’t beat it. It is the best feeling in the world.”
Does he have any advice for anyone struggling or looking to make some positive changes in their lives? “Don’t be ashamed if you have a disability or a mental health problem.
“Don’t be afraid to talk to someone. There is help out there. You are not alone.”