“Be the mentor you wish you had.”
I regularly reflect on this statement as it means a lot to me. As an 11-year-old playing football for Hackney I was subjected to the worst type of racist abuse from opposing players and parents, I won’t go into too much detail but I lashed out at the nearest player.
There were two victims, me for being subjected to the abuse and the other boy for, in technical terms, acting on learned behaviour that he felt was acceptable. Now here is the real issue. I was removed from the game by my coach and his reaction was to tell me to, ‘lose that chip on your shoulder’ as he slapped me across the head. It was at that point a 'Dad' came over and spat at me, then went on to tell me that he 'disapproved' of the colour of my skin, in foul language of the day. This wasn’t the last time I was subject to racist abuse on the football pitch, or in the street and sadly, that wasn't the first time either..
I vowed that I would, ‘be the mentor I wish I had’ long before anyone coined the phrase, ‘adverse childhood experience’. Since then, I have done many things, I have been a senior investigating officer, I have been a deputy commander in Wycombe local policing area, I have represented the community in the NHS, been a mentor within the community and now carry out accredited training for mentors. Nothing has stopped me from achieving what I hoped I could, but this experience is always somewhere in my thoughts.
If I knew then what I know now, and had my football coach been a trained mentor, then maybe things would be different, maybe I wouldn’t be writing about it now. The situation would possibly have been the same but the way I managed what happened in my mind, over and over again is likely to be very different.
It is so important that people who work with children from all backgrounds are trained as trauma informed mentors so that they know how to try and prevent childhood trauma from being an experience that defines a young person’s life.