Gamechangers: Liam Masters – Football & Feelings
Welcome to the first blog of this new Gamechangers series. The aim of this series is to showcase the excellent work that people are doing, who are using football as a tool to create positive social change in the world.
My first guest is Liam Masters, who is on a mission to bridge the gap between how we talk about football (often very laid-back) and mental health (sometimes very morbid and uncomfortable), through his very own podcast… Football & Feelings.
What is Football & Feelings?
Football & Feelings is a podcast that tries to show a deeper side to former players, creators, and fans, using football as a common interest. I have used it as a platform to encourage people to open-up about their insecurities and any adversity that they have faced. Everyone has their own stories and perspectives, so it’s fascinating to hear the guests talk about their lives so far, with an emphasis on mental wellbeing and growth.
What inspired you to create this podcast?
I felt as if the conversation around mental health was quite linear and didn’t really appeal to a guy like me in my mid-20s. Personally, the arm round the shoulder and “it’s ok to not be ok” approach does not work, as I want to understand the deeper meanings to things before I dissect them, accept them, and eventually feel comfortable discussing them. This is the approach I use on the podcasts to try and encourage the guests to open-up. I want to understand the deep and multi-faceted beliefs and experiences people have in and around football, and a podcast is the perfect platform to do this.
Football & Feelings was my first experience in front of a mic and camera, so I have had to evolve and grow quickly, but I was keen to learn. Podcasts, generally, have a consistent place in my life and weekly routines, so I’ve always loved the medium.
Why is it so important to discuss our mental health?
I don’t think it’s possible to understand how you feel about things until you speak or write about them. Our thoughts can become so jumbled up in our heads, and our judgement can become clouded or skewed. Before you know it, you’re losing the battle to your own mind which can convince you that you don’t deserve to be happy. By talking about your feelings and mental state, you can take the sting out of the matter which can hopefully support you in taking a step back and understanding the emotions you are feeling. Also, everyone has a tendency to believe they are the only person that feels a certain way, but this is never the case. By sharing experiences and emotional pitfalls and high-rises, you will often find that other people have been through the same thing.
Nothing is ever as bad as your mind can make you believe.
What have been some of the biggest takeaways from the conversations you have had?
Before starting Football & Feelings, I struggled to feel empathy towards the struggles of others. I’m not sure why, but this was the case. But by sitting and listening to the guests that I’ve had on the podcast, explaining the details of their struggles and how they became the person that they are today, I’ve been able to understand their feelings and appreciate the fact that they’ve felt comfortable opening-up to me. So, I now realise the importance of empathising with the people around you, because they may just want someone to listen. You do not need to solve all their problems, just listen and try to understand.
Also, the podcast has made me realise that everyone has their battles regardless of how you or the world perceives them. I’ve spoken to some of the chirpiest and happiest people you can imagine, but they have layers that most of the world around them has never seen. When you understand this, it makes you withdraw any judgement you may have, because the person you think is truly happy could be struggling to keep it together.
How do you look after your own mental health?
I wish I could give one magic answer that people could use. I’ve tried many times to Google search quick fixes to mental health struggles, but you have to play the long game.
I feel 10x worse if I’m eating badly and not getting adequate nutrition, so healthy eating is a big one for my mental wellbeing. Exercise too, and I don’t think it needs to be vigorous all the time. Sometimes just a walk with some music or a podcast is just what I need.
I’ve also been on a journey of mindfulness to try and understand my own feelings. To do this I write in my journal and meditate 3 or 4 times a week. It may sound a bit cheesy, but I’ve realised it works for me. I will often write about what could have provoked a certain emotion, or just have a ramble about life. I finish every journal entry off with some positivity to make sure I’m not being too harsh on myself. This gives me a real boost in the mornings because my neutral mindset can sometimes feel a bit negative, so this helps me to shift it into a more positive one. Meditation is not for everyone, but it helps me calm my racing mind and take in each present moment, rather than worrying about the past or future.
Football & Feelings is available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Acast and YouTube. You can also follow Liam’s journey on Twitter (@LiamMasters_) and Instagram (@footballandfeelings). Keep up the great work Liam – I think we can all agree that you are doing an amazing thing, with an incredible purpose.