Today, 11 November, is a day of remembrance in many countries.
In addition to remembering the fallen, my family has another memory evoked by the day.
My brother, John, died on this day in 1982. He was twenty-six years old. He was a professional footballer with Colchester United.
I have written about John elsewhere on Clyde Street. Many of these posts have been prompted by R U OK Day.
John took his own life.
My sister, Judith, and I are the remaining members of our family. We are the memory keepers of John, the youngest member of our family.
Thirty-three years on we are still bereft.
For my part, like most family members when there is a suicide in the family, I still feel profoundly guilty about his death. I was his older brother and I had an unequivocal duty of care to him and my sister.
John’s full name is John Patrick Lyons. He bore the name of his grandfather and his great grandfather. His was a name given for a long life.
Whenever I think about John, I remember a talented sportsman. He was an international basketball player, a record breaking athlete, a precocious outside half in rugby, and a goal-scoring striker in football.
The photograph at the head of this post was taken after winning the Welsh Cup with Wrexham in 1978. John played in the team that won promotion to the Second Division of the Football League that year. It was a great year for him to be at Wrexham. The team made it to the quarter finals of the FA Cup and the League Cup.
When I think about John, I think of the boy that became the man too. Since his death I have hoped to be a carer for all boys in sport, particularly in high performance sport. It has been a three decade journey that is reinvigorated each day but focused by this day of all days.
I am delighted that professional football has recognised how important it is to care for players’ well-being. As a footnote to this post, I would like to mention one person whom I have met who practices the care and compassion that I think is vital for young professional sportsmen and their coaches.
It has been my great good fortune to have met David Priestley. He has spent his professional life caring for the well-being of cricketers, rugby union players and footballers. I am in awe of his approach to supporting people in a very public gaze.
I think that he and John would have got on. Thirty-three years ago the support systems in football were offered by teammates … and often alcohol.
David has an alternative approach. This is his LinkedIn introduction:
I consider myself to be, first and foremost, a family man. I am a strong person with a calm and reassuring demeanor. I have worked within professional sport for over 16 years alongside international sportsmen, multidisciplinary sport science support teams, elite coaches and executive management teams. With a strong academic grounding and vast applied experiences, I have accrued insights into the human condition and developed ways to help people perform to their personal potential. I have come to critique a performance-based myopia, and instead believe in the importance of actively shaping a high performing environment and a person-centered culture.
David’s journey has taken him to some very dark places with players and coaches. As a result of meeting him I have added another layer of care in my practice … aspiring to care for carers who carry enormous responsibilities.
In doing this, I remember John and hope that other families are spared 11 November days.