Former Doncaster Rovers football coach who tried to take his own life graduates from university to become full-time soccer coach
John Caven hit his lowest ebb in December after struggling with severe mental health problems.
But the football fan is now looking forward to a bright future in the game and teaching a new generation of players after being supported through the darkest period of his life.
The 40-year-old father-of-three who is from Holmfirth and coached Doncaster Rovers graduated from the University of South Wales this month with a 2.2 honours in his degree in Community Football Coaching, Development and Administration, despite having left school at 15 without a single qualification.
Originally a building worker from Leeds and then owner of his own construction business, John discovered a passion for supporting young footballers within the community with his initial opportunity coming when he started doing voluntary coaching for his son’s grassroots team, Cumberworth Juniors.
“I really enjoyed doing that, it brought me such a lot of happiness, and, as the years went by, because I was my own boss, I was able to help more different groups in the community," he said.
"It was just something I was passionate about and really enjoyed, but I never really saw it as a job, or a career I could follow."
Mr Caven - a Leeds United fan - looked to take on coaching as a full-time vocation and enrolled in a course closer to home which he later found "didn't quite live up" to his expectations.
“All of it just came together and I just decided that I wanted to have a complete career change, and looked at how to get into football coaching.”
He then managed to secure a coaching role at League One side Doncaster Rovers FC, where he was heavily involved in setting up the Doncaster Titans which supports youngsters with disabilities, and then went on to enroll in a football coaching degree at the University of South Wales.
But despite passing his first year with flying colours, Mr Caven faced challenges that led to his mental health difficulties.
“Before finishing the second year at USW I lost a couple of close family members, which hit me really hard and was the catalyst for the problems that put me back a year, meaning I didn’t graduate from the foundation course alongside the students I started with,” he said.
“Then, when I started my degree, I noticed some health problems, then came the pandemic and the lockdown.
"With my wife being self-employed, it meant we were really struggling to make ends meet, our kids were finding it tough being at home and we couldn’t help them with their school work, and with the amount I was doing with uni, it all got on top of me and I got to my lowest ebb just before last Christmas.”
Thankfully, at one of the toughest times in John’s life, he got the support he desperately needed after asking for help from his lecturers and the University's student services.
“I really do think that the support offered saved me,” John said.
“It’s been unreal. The day after I’d had my lowest moment, I had an epiphany following a moment with my wife. This inspired me to make a few calls and reach out, to try to sort myself out.
"I went from really struggling to having a number of people who made themselves readily available to talk and help."
Anyone struggling with their mental health or suicidal thoughts can call Samaritans on 116 123, which is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.