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Raheem Sterling & the importance of wellbeing role models

Updated: Nov 21, 2023

Raheem Sterling recently visited his old school Ark Elvin Academy near Wembley, where he launched his new foundation which will fund educational and social mobility initiatives for young people in London, Manchester and Kingston, Jamaica where he was born.

Raheem said in the Times magazine that ‘It was actually lovely to see how the teachers and the kids could joke and share a laugh with each other, but they also had so much mutual respect too. It was a really nice environment. Not like in my days.

'I was angry and having temper tantrums. We had moved to England. I had no father around. All that was still playing on my mind, so my concentration wasn’t the best. And after visiting my old school and seeing how the environment is so lovely. I understand more what I needed: I didn’t have a relationship with anyone in education. I wish I’d had someone to open up to, because that brings trust. I guess that’s what I lacked the most. Someone to listen to me.’

‘Your mind is all you’ve got isn’t it? I like telling that to the younger people because this generation, I think, is more open to new ideas. I know those young people who’ve struggled. I’ve lived that life. I just couldn’t be reached when I was their age. I had so many battles in my head and I didn’t fight them in the correct way. Now I know it is ok to take a moment and check how you are. In fact today, with all the stresses of work and family that everyone goes through, I would say it can be a life-saver.’

Can you recognise any mini Raheems in your classes at the moment who are struggling and need you to listen to them?

PE teachers can often be the best person to support a troubled child as they usually have great relationships with their children and can offer opportunities for students to move to calm their brain and excel in non-academic areas. Put this alongside the knowledge of how to build a child’s mental fitness and it creates an inspirational teacher with the ability to transform lives.

Picture - Evening Standard

The Raheem Sterling foundation will offer meditation to young people, something that Raheem finds particularly helpful for his own mental health.

Why did Raheem start meditation?

‘It’s a string of negative thoughts that begins and you can’t stop them. For me, that was the beginning of my journey into meditation.'

‘I went through a difficult period where I couldn’t stop the negative thoughts in my head from taking over. Everything I would normally do wasn’t working and I had to overcome it. For the first time in my career I was not playing as much as I liked. I was feeling a lot of frustration and we had this massive tournament on the horizon. I had to try something different to get into the zone. I made a decision to take some time for myself and try something new.’

Something new was meditation. ‘l had a bath and felt the warm water and worked on my breathing and my thoughts and then there was a good feeling. That first time felt so fresh and nice about myself and then the next day it was even better, so I continued.’

‘Meditation has improved my thinking but also my body conditioning. If you improve your thoughts, clear your mind, then your body follows, it is all connected. I know what I can do. It’s about getting your best self out there. You breathe, you focus on the moment and everything else fades. Breathing, focus, relaxation of the body - you create a space from those mental battles. ’

What would a school day look like for you and your children if everyone was their best self?

In step 3 of our building mental fitness roadmap, we guide teachers to develop their students self awareness. One of the ways we do this is through body scanning as this helps students to develop their mindfulness meditation and it has had a great impact, particularly with key stage 3 boys.

Picture: Man City FC- Credit: Archant

I was walking down the corridor at school when a head of department came rushing up to thank me.

I asked ‘What for?’ And she said ‘Whatever you did with your year 8 group in PE yesterday. They have never been so focused and keen to learn in my lesson. It was brilliant. When I asked them why, they said it was because they had done relaxation in PE period 2. You worked miracles with them, thank you.’

Now the group in question came into that class from a tough circuit training session, requesting to take part in the body scanning activity that we had done the week before.

Body scanning involves lying down focusing on your breathing before considering how each area of the body feels, it enables people to relax with no outside stimulus and consider some important questions. How are they feeling? Are they relaxed or tense? If they are tense whereabouts in their body? And are they worried about anything? They then had a stretch before returning to learn about the mental fitness pyramid focusing on building confidence and then taking part in a yoga session tailored to their needs, in this case a pelvic flexibility session as there were a lot of footballers in the group.

Now the key area was the focus on breathing and this can help students suffering from both small and big traumas. The brainstem is a key part of the brain and if that is anxious or alerted it will trigger the fight, flight or fright response. Focusing on your breathing for a prolonged period of time soothes the brain stem, increasing an individual's window of tolerance, enabling the individual to engage the higher aspects of the brain such as the Limbic brain and then the Cortex brain which allows the class in question to function and learn more efficiently.

By increasing the window of tolerance we are seeing greater staff/student relationships, improved behaviour, more productive learning and more importantly happier young people.

How we can help you

If you would like to join our movement of inspirational teachers the '9 Step Building Mental Fitness Roadmap' course teaches you and your colleagues how to set up an award winning programme within 90 days with easy to follow videos and a comprehensive set of editable resources to save you hours of time planning and creating resources.

Why not try our complimentary Building Mental Fitness scorecard which has been created to help your Physical Education department identify the areas you need to focus on to transform the wellbeing of your students.

You can test your PE department's wellbeing scorecard in 2 minutes by answering some simple questions. You will receive your own personalised report with top tips to enhance the quality of your provision to transform the wellbeing of your students and staff.

Taking this super quick quiz will arm you with the information you need to take your Physical Education department’s wellbeing programme to the next level.

In addition, we would be delighted to go through the answers you have provided in your scorecard and explore different ways we can enhance your department's wellbeing provision in partnership with you.

To find out more visit our website at:

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