Harrogate Town's Brendan Kiernan aiming to deliver more than just football skills at Soccer School
A match ball signed by his Harrogate Town team-mates will be central to the message on mental health that Brendan Kiernan is aiming to deliver during what will be a parting gift to the local area.
The 28-year-old attacker is leaving Wetherby Road this summer after the League Two club decided not to offer him a new contract for 2021/22, thus bringing his two-year stay in North Yorkshire to an end.
But, before he goes, the former Crystal Palace trainee is holding a football coaching session with a difference for youngsters aged nine to 16.
BK Soccer School will take place on June 4 at Killinghall Country Park and will see Kiernan launch a counselling and mentoring service aimed at helping young footballers and athletes.
The day itself is set to be centred around football coaching but will also provide Kiernan with an opportunity to talk to the children in attendance about mental health.
One of the main themes that he will focus on is resilience, something which he feels his historic recent treble against Cambridge United is testament to.
"The hat-trick I scored in the Cambridge game is very special to me, particularly as it was the club's first-ever in the Football League, so after the game all the other players signed the match-ball for me," Kiernan told the Harrogate Advertiser.
"That hat-trick ball from the Cambridge game represents to me what you can achieve when you keep going and overcome set-backs.
"I was released by Crystal Palace at the age of 16 and I remember how it felt when I went home and sat on the settee and my mum asked me why I wasn't at training and I had to tell her that they'd let me go. It was tough and there have been plenty of other tough moments during my career since that point.
"Resilience is something that I have had to learn and rely on a lot during my time in the game, the same as a lot of footballers have. It's about not hiding from how you feel. If you're disappointed, acknowledge it, then get up and go again.
"Whether it is on the pitch or off the pitch, there are always going to be disappointments in life, but when you bounce back, you can use that to show yourself that you've done it before, so you can do it again. That's one of the key messages I am looking to try and get across on June 4."
Having studied for and secured a qualification in counselling through the Professional Footballers' Association during his time playing for Town, Kiernan is keen to pass on some of the knowledge he has acquired over the last 12 months.
"I really want to try and teach more than just football, especially during the times of Covid-19 when mental health is quite a big issue," he added.
"We are holding a soccer school on June 4, but I just wanted to add something a bit different and try and give the kids some tools to help them with not just sport, but every-day life. There will be a strong focus on mental health.
"There's some skills that the kids will be learning on the pitch and then there's skills off the pitch which will be focused around building resilience, perseverance, the importance of team-work and focus."
Determined though he is to deliver more than just football skills, Kiernan is a big advocate of the game in terms of how beneficial it can be for people's mental and physical well-being.
"Football is a good outlet and a way for people to express themselves. We also know that mental health is linked to being physically active as well," he said.
"And enjoying something that is apart from the daily stresses of life is important. It doesn't need to be professional football, it can be five-a-side or just playing out in the street with your mates like I did when I was a kid, or the walking football sessions like Harrogate Town put on at the club."
BK Soccer School gets underway on June 4 at 10am. In addition to the skills session and an address from Kiernan on mental health, there will also be a mini-tournament, a barbecue, prize giveaways and an exhibition match between a team of current professionals and one made up of former players.
Both boys and girls are welcome and places cost £25. To book, please email [email protected] For more information, visit www.brendankiernan.co.uk