Coaching his son’s football team has become a crucial part of a former soldier’s recovery from complex-Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Matthew Evans, a 40-year-old veteran who served in the army for 21 years and completed multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, found himself battling with suicidal thoughts upon returning home. However, his bond with his 11-year-old son, Ollie, has played a significant role in helping him overcome his mental health struggles.
Mr. Evans and Ollie spend their time practicing football drills on the pitch near their home in Abercanaid, Wales, often using humor to lighten the atmosphere. Ollie, a midfielder and winger, is honing his skills for upcoming trials with Newport County’s academy. Mr. Evans emphasized the importance of their connection, stating that coaching Ollie’s team serves as a form of release for both of them.
Mr. Evans began his coaching journey in the army and continued after leaving the service, working for Aldershot FC. The family relocated to Abercanaid in August, where Mr. Evans now works as an army recruitment sergeant and a coach for Newport County AFC’s academy. Reflecting on his military career, Mr. Evans acknowledged the toll it took on his mental health, mentioning that people cannot truly comprehend the things he has seen and experienced.
In January 2020, while working as an instructor for the reserves, Mr. Evans began displaying symptoms of complex PTSD. His mental health deteriorated to the point where he spent six weeks in the hospital due to self-harm. Despite the challenges, he considers himself fortunate because he sought help and received support from his wife, Roshelle, and their sons. Together, they learned coping techniques to navigate difficult situations, such as fireworks triggering distressing memories.
Ollie has been a pillar of support for his father throughout his journey. He expressed the importance of looking after loved ones, sharing how he took care of his dad when he was unwell. To help his father during stressful movie scenes involving guns, Ollie mutes the sound to prevent any negative reactions.
Mr. Evans credits coaching his sons on the football field as a way to momentarily escape from his struggles. Reflecting on Ollie’s impact, he believes his son doesn’t fully grasp how much he has helped him. Mr. Evans nominated Ollie for a Veteran’s Children’s Award Cymru, where he is a finalist in the contribution to sport under-11 category. The proud father sees Ollie as a hero.
For those struggling with PTSD, Mr. Evans advises finding something positive in life as a means of support. The story of his recovery serves as an inspiration to others facing similar challenges.