BURTON Albion first-year scholar Ben Radcliffe has been named one of this year’s BBC Young Reporter competition winners.
More than 2,500 young people aged 11 to 18 entered the competition, with the midfielder becoming one of 15 winners with his piece, ‘The experience of being an apprentice footballer at a professional club’.
The youngster’s submission highlighted the importance of mental health in football, while he also shared his experience of being an apprentice with the Brewers.
The 17-year-old won in the Me and My World (16-18) category, judged by editors from across the BBC, as well as presenters and reporters, including Huw Edwards, Laura Kuenssberg, Greg James, Alex Jones, Roisin Haistie and Ben Mundy.
“My story’s about being an apprentice footballer at a professional club and the enjoyment of it, but also about the day-to-day life pressures and sacrifices that we have to deal with.
“The majority of people think that playing football every day is best thing that could ever happen to you, especially given that most youngsters these days want to be a professional footballer.
“In my case getting a 2-year scholarship has been the best thing that has ever happened to me, but it’s also been a long journey to get it.
“I love waking up every morning. Gym, yoga, training, and especially seeing the lads I get to play with and the environment I get to train in. There is nothing I would rather do. However, I spend a lot of time thinking about other people in the same position and wondering if they similarly enjoy the day-to-day life of a footballer.
“Personally, I think mental health for footballers isn’t covered enough. Not many people understand the pressures and sacrifices we make to try and get to where we want to be.”
Dan Robinson, Head of Academy, said: “We’re delighted that Ben’s work has been highlighted and that it’s received the recognition it deserves. It is such an inspiring piece.
“For someone so young to speak out about the importance of mental health in young footballers is really amazing and brave. What he has done can hopefully benefit lots of other people that are his age and in his position.
“Ben’s a great lad and we’re really proud of him for writing such an intelligent and heart felt piece. It’s also a great example of what we try to do at Burton Albion Academy, by focusing on the importance of helping individuals to become both better players and people.”
As part of winning the award, a BBC interview with Ben featured live on national television, and he’s described the whole experience and support that he’s received as overwhelming.
“It’s been really well received by the club, my teammates and the staff, and lots of people have interacted with it, Ben told the official club website.
“I’ve had lots of people get in contact with me and tell me that the message I’ve sent out is really important.
“The main message is that it’s not to do with me, but it’s about everyone in general. To speak about these things with your teammates and others is important, as well as having the bravery to tell people that you are struggling.
“I didn’t spend lots of time writing the piece, I just made sure that I got my message across and it came pretty natural to me.
“Seeing yourself on national news to millions of people was pretty daunting, but it was also really nice at the same time. I’m glad I’ve done it and hope that it can help others.”
WATCH: Click here to watch Ben's interview on the BBC Sport website.