Former professional footballer, Bobby Copping, who had to retire from his beloved sport at the age of 19 due to a serious head injury, shared his story in a talk with the Football and Education Academy students of Stamford College.
Bobby began his football career at the age of 8, playing for Norwich City. After 8 years, a change of management saw his release from the club. He then went on trials and received a few offers, choosing to sign with Bury FC, where he made his First Team debut a few months later. After Bury FC’s liquidation, Bobby was once again without a club. Things looked up for him after he received a call from his agent regarding a deal with Peterborough United; he met the Manager, Darren Ferguson, and Director of Football, Barry Fry and instantly signed. Bobby had secured his first professional contract, and a week later, made his professional debut in a local derby vs. Cambridge.
But, tragedy struck when a header in training resulted in him sustaining a serious head injury, with Bobby momentarily losing the majority of his vision and feeling in the left-hand side of his body. Bobby explained, “After the injury, I was left with 3 options. Firstly, to carry on playing and risk going blind. Secondly, taking a tablet that carried the risk of kidney failure, which would lead me to an early retirement in 3-5 years anyway. I guess there wasn’t really a choice actually – I had to go with the third option, and retire from my dream in February 2021”.
Bobby was devastated by the diagnosis, and a period of coming to terms with his situation followed. But, he was determined to get his life back on track and to help others in similar situations; “Since retiring just under 2 years ago, I have gone on to achieve many things, including co-founding a registered mental health charity”. The Bobby Copping Foundation aims to educate those entering elite sport with the stories of those who have experienced their world falling apart through injury, like Copping. The charity also provides unique mental health support to those who have been released from sports clubs and are finding the rejection hard to deal with. Counselling and support seminars are delivered to athletes, parents, carers and supporters, to help them to enter their sport with their eyes wide open.
Chris Palmer, Football Coach at Stamford College, said, “We had the pleasure of Stamford Football and Education Academy being one of Bobby's first audiences for his presentation regarding his playing career and how it was cruelly cut short at such a young age. His determination and desire to succeed with many off-field projects have really had a positive impact on the local area and more widely. We are extremely delighted to be involved with Bobby's charity and our students’ experience is enhanced with his desire to help them on and off the pitch”.
Since his injury, Bobby has obtained numerous coaching badges and is currently studying towards a second Masters Degree in MSc Sports Directorship. He has also been appointed as the General Manager for the Peterborough United Women’s team, securing kit, player and stand sponsors. Bobby said, "I sit at my desk [at Peterborough United] and I look at the players training, and I think: 'I should be there, I should be doing that’”. “But”, he continued, “I think the education and support that the Foundation offers has proven that the most negative situations can be turned into a positive!”.