Former Manchester United and Northern Ireland footballer Pat McGibbon hosted a series of mental health and wellbeing workshops at the Belfast Youth Cup this week.

The tournament organisers, in partnership with Change Your Mind, Inspire and Train 2B Smart, delivered a series of free masterclasses for parents, players and coaches. These focused on the links between young people’s personal growth and footballing development.

A qualified physiotherapist, Pat drew on his own knowledge of sports science – as well as his experiences of playing and coaching – to outline ways of supporting the wellbeing of young players, in training and on the sidelines.

This important initiative was part of a wider campaign to remove mental health stigma from within football and encourage young people, along with their parents and coaches, to be more aware of the impact of poor mental health on and off the pitch.

The sessions were held at Ulster University Jordanstown’s sports centre during the first two days of the competition.

Ahead of the sessions, Pat McGibbon said:

I’m delighted to be partnering with the Belfast Youth Cup and Inspire/Change Your Mind to deliver workshops focusing on the personal and social development of children and young people within a team environment. As a former professional footballer, UEFA Pro-level coach, qualified physiotherapist and qualified health and wellbeing coach, I have studied the links between physical, mental and emotional growth.

Just as importantly, I have, as the father of three children, gained the knowledge and experience to speak about the many challenges faced by parents, guardians, children and young people as they navigate the path from grassroots to youth and elite levels of sport.

These sessions will give an insight into my own experiences growing up through child and youth sports, as well as the challenges my parents faced during my career. These informal, interactive workshops will provide a brilliant opportunity for parents to ask questions and explore the tools they can add to their mental and emotional toolkits, building resilience and promoting mental health in children and young people.”

Jenna Booth from Inspire/Change Your Mind said:

It is always important to highlight the importance of positive mental health when it comes to our young people and we are thrilled to be joining Pat McGibbon as we focus on how to better encourage awareness around mental health and wellbeing within football.

Parents and coaches are often those who our young people look up to and seek out when they are struggling. It is therefore important that we equip those responsible for young people with the knowledge and know-how on mental health. These masterclasses will delve into how adults can provide that support on and off the pitch, tackling stigma around the subject.

We are encouraging all parents and coaches who are part of any of the Belfast Youth Cup teams to come along any session on Sunday or Monday.

For further information on these training opportunities, and others, visit