Social Scene: Family BBQ

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Mel Bryant is our coach in MAN v FAT Eastleigh, Gosport AND Southampton!

She has built some incredible communities in the south and gives us the lowdown on an event that’s worked well in her clubs.

Why is the social scene so important at your clubs?
The social scene is more important now following on from Covid than ever. Many of our members are now working from home and are far more isolated than they would have been before, so the social side is important to support everyone’s mental health, providing a support network as we all get to know each other better, of like-minded people, without judgement.

What are the key steps when putting on an event like this?
Utilise your team members! It would be impossible to try and do all of this on your own. I try to have a social event planner at each club who I discuss ideas with and work with – this could be an Assistant Coach or any player that has plenty of enthusiasm for this type of thing.

As a normal rule, I will meet with them at the beginning of each season to discuss social events and ideas for challenges that boost weight loss, promote physical activity and promote positive mental health. These ideas are then shared with the whole club, and any suggestions or ideas that they have to put forwards are also taken in to account.

It is really important to remember that this is their league and the more involved they can be, the better. Book in the date, confirm all of the arrangements and continue to remind people throughout the season to get as many people being able to attend as possible.

How did you get the community at your club to buy into coming along?
Get them involved and make it fun! Include families and friends wherever possible. We have often live filmed awards ceremonies to the group, as well as various 11s games so that those not able to attend are still able to join in with live chats etc.

How important was it to make this a family event?
All of our events have been open to family and friends! This is important for two reasons: One, their family are a huge influence on their journeys, cooking meals, choosing meals, being active etc. and secondly, families already give up their family member once a week to attend the club, quite often at a cost that is something that is not spare money given current financial climates. Their involvement is key to keeping our player levels up.

It is important to acknowledge the part that they are playing in their family members journey and to thank them for their support. It also helps secure that social bond with other participants.

We have many of the partners who now socialise together outside of MAN v FAT, sometimes attending league nights and 11s events as well as our social nights. They help to build the ‘community feel’ within the clubs.

In what ways does this type of event benefit your players?
Social events such as day time walks/brunches/awards ceremonies/charity tournaments bring the club together. They are not just isolated to their one team. They get to know each other on a personal level and now, many will stay to watch other games and to cheer others on. It reduces friction on the pitch, these aren’t just faces, they are friends!

What has been noticeable is that in each club, everyone is there to support everyone. If any of the lads is struggling with mental health, personal reasons etc. they talk, the WhatsApp chats get very busy and they are all offering their support. No one feels isolated.

What advice would you give to anyone who wants to put on an event like this?
Go for it! These events are as important as the weekly weigh ins and matches – they help to form friendships and bonds amongst your club and is so important for mental health.

Utilise the people within your leagues – everyone knows someone with a venue, or can suggest locations. Let them be involved and go with it. Aim for 1 event per season – more than that can get a bit crazy. However, saying that, if you have a regular event, such as a monthly Sunday brunch meet up and walk, once the initially planning is done, this type of event will run itself.

Utilise your Assistant Coaches and captains! And finally, promote it, these things can lose traction quickly, you need to continually remind people of it.


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