Chris Redmond – sports coaching and a journey through mental health struggles.
For me, the past year has put plenty into perspective and it has made it evident how important a healthy social and life balance really is. Personally, there was a stage where I really struggled and having nothing to look forward to was certainly one of the reasons. Thus, I recently caught up with someone who I have great admiration for in Chris Redmond. He’s given plenty of people something to look forward to in his organisations and groups which all focus on exercise and having a positive outlook on different situations. We all spoke somewhat about the club we love, Tranmere, ahead of the new campaign.
To start our conversation off, could you firstly just tell me a little bit about yourself and your upbringing around mental health and football. What were you like throughout your school years and what part did football and exercise in general play in your lifestyle and earlier stages? Was it something that you were emotionally invested in? Did you play for or go to any sporting clubs?
I had a strong upbringing, a full home of Mum, Dad, older brother and younger sister. I played football as a youngster, but I don’t ever remember winning a match! I certainly played for the team who never won a game – youth football was very different 20+ years ago, we were playing on close to full size pitches and it was 11 kids running around like headless chickens. My first dabble as a football fan was probably around 1990 when I was unfortunately given a Liverpool shirt by my auntie, so as a 5 year old I accepted it for what it was and wore it. My head got turned by a young boy called Laurie. He was sitting in the playground in school (still around the age of 5!) and I asked him what he was doing. He asked me who I supported, I didn’t know how to answer, so I asked him who he supported and he said “Tranmere Rovers” – not having a clue what a “Tranmere Rovers” was, I dutifully agreed that I also supported them and here we are 31 years later, I’m still absolutely in love with the club.
I remember watching the World Cup 1994 and I loved every second of it. Seeing teams like Brazil and Italy that year was incredible and cemented my love for the sport.
Tranmere has provided some of the best moments of my life outside of my family, and football was a huge part of my childhood and still a massive part of my life. I’ve exercised for as long as I can remember, running laps of a playground, going to the gym, swimming in the holidays with friends and having a long period of time kickboxing and bodybuilding. I spent the first part of my adult life in the gym lifting weights 5 times a week, and in 2014 I started running.
Now I run 4 times a week and I lift weights twice, partly because I’m pretty competitive but mostly to look after my mental health.
When did you first come across Tranmere and what are your greatest and worst memories that you’ve had following the club? If you had to name some of the best and worst players and places that you’ve seen and been to in that time, what players and places would you name?
As above, I first came across Tranmere as a 5 year old in a school playground – I genuinely didn’t understand anything about football whatsoever. I went to my first game which was Grimsby at home in the old format of the reserve games, which were fantastic! We won 3 – 0 and I was buzzing about it. I’ve had season tickets for 30 odd years on and off (I had to stop in my 20’s because of work commitments but still got plenty of games), now I go to the home games and the occasional away as I’ve got a young family. I sit with my Dad and the gang who we’ve grown to know over the past 5 years of sitting in the main stand.
I’ll get the worst memories out of the way first – obviously the relegations were awful. The second of the back to back relegations was the worst because of the nature in which it happened. Mark and Nicola have brought so much hope to the club and then we did the most typical Tranmere thing ever and we employ a narcissist in Adams who destroys the morale of the team and we get relegated! The atmosphere around the club and the ground was so toxic, it must have been a bit shit to have the job of sorting that out.
The Forest Green final was also an extremely low point, it was a foregone conclusion by half time so I had mostly gotten over that by the end of the game but the journey home was absolutely horrendous. Sometimes you just need to be away from people at times like that, and being on a coach for 5 hours wasn’t fun, a coach full of people who are gutted. The journey was miserable.
The worst players I’ve witnessed will be left out, but there was a group of the 2014/15 season that should never be seen in a professional team. Their commitment to earning their wage was never there, and their right to wear the badge of any football club is none existent. I’m obviously a Tranmere man through and through, but I wouldn’t wish some of those players on any club.
The best moments of being a Tranmere fan are much more important and prominent in my memories. The cup runs of the late 90’s early 2000’s were something special. When David Kelly scored that goal at Wembley the place went insane. Over 40,000 fans going bonkers, as Tranmere fans we don’t get to experience that mass celebration very often. So that was pretty special.
Norwoods header against Boreham Wood was obviously incredible for different reasons. When it was 1 – 1 the time seemed to be flying by, when the goal went in I thought “we’ve got to hold onto this for another 30 minutes”, before looking up at the clock in shock that it was 82 minutes gone. I turned to my good friend and said “fucking hell, there’s 8 minutes left – we might actually do this”, the following 10+ minutes were absolutely horrendous from a fans point of view. After the final whistle went I think I hugged everyone within a 10 seat radius.
It’s moments like these that you really feel emotion, and when you’ve had deep mental health struggles where you never thought you would feel them, it makes them extremely special.
My Rovers heros are from the 90’s – Aldridge, Morrissey and Co. Just incredible. As a man approaching middle aged, I’m not sure I’d say I have idols now, but I value a footballer who works hard for 90 minutes and knows what it means to wear the badge.
Peter Clark, Jay Spearing, James Norwood are all men from recent years that I highly appreciate for their values and work ethic they offer every single game.
Socially, how would you describe the role that Rovers have in your life? I recently saw a tweet from yourself that said how great fellow supporters were. What will it be like to finally be around others in the stadium instead of watching behind the iFollow cameras and how would you say that Rovers fans interact with each other through social media? Is there a sense of community and social strength?
Rovers are a part of your soul, It’s just how your football team works. When you see someone call us shit on social media then it’s kind of taken personally. Even though we do it to Bolton and Forest Green all the time. . .
Like any fans we have our moments, but I think we’ve had our fair share of shit over time. The two relegations, the demotion on PPG, the madness of Jeremy Butler, Micky Adams, John Barnes and to some extend Gary Brabin (I liked Brabin, he just wasn’t the right man for us), I can understand why fans are so quick to react to appointments like Keith Hill – which most were proven right about. Sometimes we react too quickly, but it just shows pure passion and love for the club.
I wouldn’t change the way we are, we’ve been through a lot as a fan base and because of that there can be tensions between us when we are quick to react.
However, I don’t think this takes away from what the community offers. We have fans who are very open about their struggles with health, their families health or their mental health, and the reaction from our fans is always fantastic. The fact that the players and Nicola Palios get involved too really speaks volumes about the way we are as a community.
When we take a shine to someone then they’re always welcome back to Prenton Park, Nors is a prime example of that. He’s one of us and when it comes down to it, we look after our own and they look after us. During lockdown (the first one!) I missed football so much, I think it’s all I talked about in the lads Whatsapp group. Not being able to go to the game was horrendous, I missed the whole routine of leaving my house to pick my dad up, the drive to the ground listening to the radio, the walk up to the ground, a pint pre match and seeing the gang that we sit with. I’m very excited to be back on Saturday, and even more excited to see us play under Micky again!
I’m not a man who shows physical affection to anyone other than my partner and my children, but I may hug Leslie, Margie, Len and Bev when I see them at the game! (if they let me!)
If you didn’t struggle mentally throughout your childhood, when did you first notice that you probably needed help? For example, what was your mental health like six years ago that you referred to in a tweet? Did you find it easy to initially talk about it and what steps did you take to improve it? How would you describe your current position now to your lowest?
I’m never sure where I should start on this question. My wider and more detailed story is a bit of a memory shit show.
Reflecting back I never really knew where I stood during my years in secondary school, I never really settled into a friendship group and that was mostly down to my inability to feel like people liked me. I wasn’t massively aware of that at the time and it isn’t something that I feel hard done by now, it is just something I acknowledge. During my late teens and early 20’s I had a bout of depression and was prescribed my first dose of tablets for that. As I headed into my early 20’s things started to escalate and I began to have panic attacks and longer and deeper periods of depression, also developing elements of OCD that I didn’t really understand. It was a very strange time, and I didn’t really know what was going on.
I had some incidents in my work life, which escalated my anxiety and OCD and it was a huge downward spiral which resulted in me having a nervous breakdown in 2015 – hence the tweet about 6 years ago. I had a lot of suicidal thoughts and it was extremely harrowing, but the best side of this was that I had hit absolute rock bottom and I’d survived, so the only place I could go now was up.
The breakdown put my problems out in the open, my family knew the full extent, work had to be told as I was having time off and I had to begin to address what was going on. There was no other choice now, and that was massive for my recovery.
At my lowest points I was lying on the kitchen floor crying my eyes out at the prospect of going to work, I tied nooses around my neck, I struggled to an incredible extent to function at times. I remember going to Matalan with my Mum to buy some new towels and it felt like a big deal that I’d managed to go down and do it.
I’ve got a great life now, I still have my struggles at times with the odd moment of panic over something that isn’t important but I’m working on that. I feel like I’ve won the war, but I’m not complacent with it.
Now I compete in Ultra endurance running races, I’ve got a beautiful partner and two children and I run 2 successful businesses that help people with their physical and mental wellbeing. I manage my mental health through running and I know when things are getting a bit tough, I need to catch up on some sleep and perhaps reduce my alcohol intake a bit.
If you could describe yourself and your ambitions in life, at work and away from it, what would you describe yourself as and what goals do you have in a working capacity and at home? Is coaching something that’s always interested you or did that come through the Rovers club?
I’ve coached for the previous 11 years as a personal trainer and a running coach, it is something I genuinely love – although the working hours can be pretty brutal at times. In 2018 I opened Running Head First, a mental health organisation that helps people with mental health through running and other exercise forms.
We help people who are experiencing mental health illness for various reasons, it may be depression, anxiety or OCD. They may be suffering a loss of a loved one or experiencing other challenges in their personal life. We also work with people who have cancer, children in poverty and youths who are engaged in crime.
I want to grow Running Head First into a large north west based organisation that offers exercise, counselling and therapies as part of a wider and more holistic service to those in need. I have much bigger goals that I like to keep to myself. I’ve learned that you keep your aspirations and goals to yourself and there is a lot less pressure on you to succeed then – resulting in a higher chance of success!
But. . .I’ve got plans to help a lot of people and raise lots of money in the process.
Could you tell me a little bit about the roles that you have in mental health. Your twitter bio states that you’re a director of three mental health organisations but what does that entail, how did it come about and could someone who needed help get in touch with you about finding support? How would they do that?
As above my work in mental health is directly with Running Head First, I’m incredibly passionate about reducing mental health illness. I was a complete write off after my breakdown, and it was down to a handful of people who showed some serious and probably blind faith in me that I didn’t have in myself.
I had an incredible amount of support, sometimes it was the wrong support, but it was support regardless. Without my family and friends I would have been dead by now. I want to make sure that nobody ever has to go through what I went through alone, and if we can, stop them ever getting to rock bottom in the first place.
We’ve actually merged the three organisations this week (I need to update the bio!) two of the organisations covered children’s mental health and nutritional interventions to aid people’s wellbeing.
We support free of charge fitness and health programmes for those suffering with their mental wellbeing. Some programmes are online, but the majority of them are face to face. If people want to find out more about or join one of our programmes they can do so by contacting us on Instagram or Facebook (both Running Head First), email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on 0151 315 1092 and leave a message with reception.
Touching solely on the Tranmere walking and running club and the work that you do for that. How did that first come about in terms of the ideas and the strategies of formulating them? How long did it take to set everything up and were there people working alongside you to create it all? Is it a group that works together or is it a group where people do their individual running/walking and the group sends them supportive messages? Has there been much success so far and what do you believe the end goal for it is, if there is one? How would someone come across it if the first time that they hear about it is through our conversation?
The group is born from my passion to help people’s wellbeing and my passion for Tranmere Rovers.
Birkenhead is one of the most socially deprived areas in the UK and by that there is a high chance of ill physical and/or mental health. We were in the heart of a pandemic, and I had some spare time with half of our business being closed down. I knew I wanted to do something for our community a long time ago and we tried to set something up, unfortunately it didn’t work out. With the rise of programmes online due to Covid and an increase in social isolation and people not getting to see their friends and family, it just made sense to set it up online and let it roll.
I would love to bring the running club in person, especially as the club has so many options of where we could host it, such as the rec centre, Solar Campus and Beechwood Leisure Centre. Unfortunately our attempts to have these conversations haven’t been too successful, but my ultimate goal with this is to have running clubs based from one of the clubs facilities as well as remote running clubs for those who aren’t local to Birkenhead.
We can then bring better health to the area and the club, we can increase footfall into the clubs facilities and we can hopefully bring additional funds to Tranmere Rovers in the Community and Running Head First, allowing us to both build on the great work that we are doing.
So, if anyone from the club is reading this, then my email is email@example.com and our number is 0151 315 1092 🙂
If someone was struggling and was in need of support, what advice would you give them and what strategies help you personally? One thing that really helped me throughout my counselling was the thought strategies, me and my counsellor went through the ways that I thought and felt about different situations.
Just get help. My success is not a template for anyone else to work from, but I hope my story shows that there is hope out there. Even if you think there isn’t!
Speak to your family, go to your GP, go to the hospital if you’re in a crisis, do the things that make you feel good. Don’t do the things that make you feel bad.
But most importantly, get professional help.
Looking towards the start of the new Tranmere season. What are your thoughts and feelings in terms of squad depth and quality? How great is it to have Micky back which coincides with the return of supporters and where do you think Rovers may finish come May?
The squad depth worries me, and the lack of a reputable finisher is also a great concern. Micky has always had an unusual transfer policy, often favouring the older players, but players that know how to get the job done. If we had kept Otis Kahn and Danny Lloyd, as well as adding a finisher in then I’d think we’d be in a great position. Having said that, the man has achieved promotion with us twice. He knows how to finish a season and get a job done. I suspect that if we are around 10th in January, a few choice signings will be made and we will be in the play offs at the end of the season.
If we get someone in before the end of the window (summer one!) then we could be top 3 at the end of the season. It really does depend on how well we start, regardless, we will be in the hunt for promotion in May.
Chris’ Twitter cover photo shows exactly what he thinks relates to a successful, happy and healthy lifestyle. You can find his Twitter account on the name @Chris_RedPT