Coventry University colleague creates football team to battle mental health

Sean Davies, founder of Stay Strong United, holding a football with fellow players Bright Omenogor and Jake Holcroft stood either side of him

Sean Davies (centre), founder of Stay Strong United, alongside fellow players Bright Omenogor (left) and Jake Holcroft (right)

University news

Wednesday 12 June 2024

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A Coventry University staff member is helping everyone from friends to complete strangers to improve their mental health through their shared love of football.

Sean Davies has faced his own issues in recent years, including dealing with the loss of loved ones, and knows there can be times when we can all feel at our lowest.

That inspired the 33-year-old, who works with the university's apprentices, to create Stay Strong United to give people the opportunity to be active as well as be a safe space to voice their feelings and share with others, in the hope that it can help them mentally.

I decided to set up this mental health football team to support myself and others to go out there and utilise football as a foundation to improve their mental health. You have a platform to go and just play football, make some friends, talk openly about how your week has been and talk about your mental health, knowing this is a safe environment.

The amount of responses and people saying ‘I'm looking forward to joining in and actually having something that is a safe space’ has been unbelievable. It's something that I've taken a lot of pride in - I can reflect back and say I am making a difference and helping the people of Coventry and Warwickshire.

Sean Davies


Stay Strong United is open to anyone aged 18 or over, male or female, of any footballing ability. And for Sean it isn’t the result on the pitch that matters, but the one off it.

It is literally just a casual recreational kickabout where at the end you can form some friendships, you can find someone else out there in the same mind as you and we can improve your mental health. It's for everyone out there.

My ethos is just to turn up and play and enjoy yourself. I'll be looking forward to welcoming everyone with open arms to the club. At the end of the hour or the hour and a half, we will leave celebrating our successes of playing football and being out of the house, being out of our dark areas that we may have had the previous day or the morning before. For me, our success will be celebrating each other’s mental health successes. We will celebrate what we do together and how we will continue to strive forward as a group.

Sean Davies

The club’s sessions take place at Christ the King FC in Coventry and Stay Strong United will be taking part in a festival hosted by the West Midlands Mental Health League on 26 June which also involves Sky Blues in the Community – Coventry City FC’s charity arm – as well as similar foundations from clubs such as Birmingham City, Aston Villa, Wolverhampton Wanderers and West Bromwich Albion.

An 11-a-side match is also being organised for 14 July against Solihull MANvFAT.

One person inspired to get involved with the team was Sean’s Coventry University colleague Bright Omenogor.

The moment I saw it, it was really nice. I saw the whole thing about mental health and was like ‘I love this - I would like to be a part of this journey’. I spoke to Sean and I got the whole narrative of what this is about and here I am.

We try to share stuff about mental health as well because the rate of suicide nowadays is really not great. If there's something bugging you, talk to somebody about it. But people tend not to talk...I am one of those people. I tend not to share what I'm going through with people. So, I thought about it and the moment I did share I felt better, when I did not share I didn’t, so why not share?

Any way that we can reach out and help ourselves as people, as human beings, I am absolutely down for that...and I love football. So, football and mental health...let's see how far we can go.

Bright Omenogor

Find out more about Stay Strong United.