Can keepy uppies help improve your child's mental health?

While England Lioness Jill Scott has been stuck at home, she’s been spending her time encouraging youngsters to stay active and keep up their football skills by posting “Obvious Jill’s Football Challenges” on her social media accounts. 

Speaking on Up Close And Socially Distant, she told series host Kate Thornton that while she’s missing being at football, she’s also missing the coaching she would normally do, which led to her creating her social challenges. 

The idea first came to her when she challenged her nephew to try and do some tricks, and she suddenly realised that her challenges could help other kids deal with the stresses of lockdown.

“I always look at my week and say my training’s my revision, and then on a weekend I've got my exam, which is the game,” she explained to Kate. “And the biggest challenge I've got at the minute is do I win Monopoly or not.

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“I think it's the same for kids, kind of still giving them that challenge - but the feedback's been good. I think some brothers have been competing with the sisters and stuff like that, and the parents have been getting involved as well.”

Scott said that while training is important to football, the fun stuff is just as important to kids’ development as the more structured sessions.

“I go off to the local field, and I see - I'm not just blaming the dads - but there's a lot of dads with the whistles, the stop watches, the cones,” she said. “I think they think they’re Pep Guardiola! I'm saying to them, ‘Just let your kids enjoy it, have a kick about.’”

She continued: “I was always just in the back lanes. I think you can learn so much from sometimes the unstructured sessions, and it keeps your mental health up as well.”

Scott revealed though that she does sometimes take her own challenges a bit too seriously – so much so that she’s ripped two pairs of tracksuit bottoms trying to do some tricks!

“Don't think they're one take, though, because some of the tricks I get so frustrated,” she admitted. “I'm still like that little kid in the park. I'm 33, and I mess the skill up, and I'm throwing the ball down.

“I might have to post some of them because I am very competitive still. It's almost embarrassing!”

While speaking to Kate, Scott, who plays for Manchester City, also revealed the reason she’s entitled her videos ‘Obvious Jill’s Football Challenges’ – and it’s something that goes back to the World Cup!

“In terms of the "Obvious Jill,"… It was at the World Cup actually, Karen Bardsley,” she told Kate.

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“I just kept saying stupid things, like ‘If you drink half of that drink, I'll be able to have the other half’. And she'd be like, ‘Obvious Jill’. I've kind of noted down just stupid things I say every day and then use them in the videos!”

Scott, who says she’s run out of tricks and is calling in favours from her team-mates, believes that football will return “with more passion than ever before.” Until then, she advises all football lovers to work with what they have and just enjoy the time they have.

“Just don't focus on what we can't do, but what we can do,” she suggested.

“I know now you can go to the park, and you take someone with you. So at least you can practice your passing, and you can work on your speed, your fitness, and your ball work. 

“Keep striving. Keep believing in your dreams. This might be a little pause for now. But how can you use this time to get even better, I suppose? And then we can attack football once this lockdown's over.”

Up Close And Socially Distant is hosted by Kate Thornton and features weekly video catch-ups with people who are all doing whatever they can to help those around them get through lockdown.

This week Kate speaks to England Lioness, Jill Scott, MBE, about how her football challenges are keeping children active in lockdown, to Medical Director of Primary Care for NHS England and NHS Improvement, Dr Nikki Kanani, and to Strictly Come Dancing singer, Hayley Sanderson, about her work with Women’s Aid and Bede House to help raise the voices of survivors domestic abuse.