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“They helped me see the light at the end of the tunnel”

- James, School of Hard Knocks


The project that helped James out of a dark place and turned his life around.

When the first Covid-19 lockdown hit in March 2020, James lost his job in construction and his relationship broke down. Without his usual coping mechanisms like socialising with friends, going to the gym and playing and coaching rugby, James found himself in a difficult place, struggling with depression.

“I was in a dark place with no vision of being able to get out…I was depressed to a point where I couldn’t really explain it.”

“The pandemic kind of opened my eyes to what was wrong with my life. Worrying about work but not really wanting to go back to construction and being stuck on my own really took a toll. By September last year things were really difficult, I had gotten pretty low.”

With the news of a second lockdown, the effects on James became so overwhelming, he decided to open up to a friend. James’ friend introduced him to School of Hard Knocks which, with the support of money raised by Red Nose Day, is offering the Reaching Your Potential initiative. Through sport, curriculum-based learning, and counselling, the programme helps adults with mental health issues to improve their wellbeing. 

“I wanted to try and find a job that I enjoyed more than anything. My dream job would be something in sport. I wanted to make the most of this opportunity to recognise my potential and have the courage to take the chance on chasing my dream.”

School of Hard Knocks provided an opportunity to learn, to rebuild James’ confidence and, above all, believe in himself.

James is now working in a full-time role with School of Hard Knocks as a sports coach facilitator working with schools, which he considers his dream job. He has played a key part in children’s summer camps through the holidays and has continued to share his inspirational story with the adult groups who are just beginning their own journey on the programme. James feels like he is making a difference every day.

“They saw massive potential in what I did as a volunteer and offered me a role. It’s so different to my old job in construction. This is the best job I’ve ever had and waking up every day is easy now.”

Reaching Your Potential

School of Hard Knocks’ Reaching Your Potential programme supports those with mild to moderate mental health problems to improve their wellbeing. The programme, funded by Comic Relief, aims to improve mental and physical health through sport, a structured curriculum and counselling from expert psychologists. The hope is hundreds of adults in Wales will benefit from the sessions.