THEIR players might not be able to come together for games but non-league football clubs are making it their goal to provide mental health support.

The temporary three-week suspension, imposed by the Scottish Football Association for all football beneath the SPFL Championship, is due to end this weekend but, with current lockdown rules continuing into February, West Fife's affected sides believe stoppage time will carry on for a longer period.

Inverkeithing Hillfield Swifts, which has 350 members from mini kickers to their senior team, and Rosyth have introduced online sessions for players, encouraging them to stay connected while going out running using the Strava fitness app, while Crossgates Primrose were planning to supply their squad with fitness programmes they can do in lockdown from last week.

Craig Reid, chairman of the Swifts, and Russell Craig, a coach with Rosyth, explained to Press Sport what they're doing to support the mental welfare of players.

"We put a lot into our fitness at the club," Reid said.

"It's one of the few things you can actually work on that makes a really big difference. That's why we've been keen, during the three-week lockdown as soon as it happened, to put in a training plan with the Nitrafit guys down at Pitreavie.

"We're doing Tuesday and Thursday sessions for the whole club. It's split into three sessions; you've got your under-10s, your 10- to 15-year-olds, and then you've got the older ages of the club, the 20s, the seniors and any coaches that want to take part.

"The feedback has been phenomenal but they've also been moaning because they've got sore bits in their body that I don't think they knew could be sore!

"There's been a great uptake. On a Saturday and a Sunday, we've been doing ball mastery sessions with Josh Morris. Josh is one of our players, and is a cracking coach, so some of the younger age groups did ball mastery in their living rooms over the last couple of weekends.

"As a committee, we were keen to make sure we had something across the whole club that allowed people to check in and do a little bit of exercise. It's great for mental health."

Craig continued: "You can bring in mental health speakers – as we do with Eddie Martin regularly – but there's no real substitute for a real, good hard work out and feeling great after it. There's a sense of achievement there.

"You've got to think about everything nowadays with having a big group of kids. Over the Christmas period, there was a number of young boys who took their own lives, and it's absolutely frightening. It's one of the things that worries me most.

"We're all workers, we're all volunteers, but we've got to put the effort in to make sure there's something for these kids to do in the current climate.

"I don't think you can explain enough the value associated with doing that little bit of exercise and giving members of the club something to do."

As well as setting running targets for players to motivate them to enjoy some exercise, Rosyth coach Russell has been open to communication over anxieties that the pandemic can bring.

"It's been an eye-opener for me, the mental health side of it," he admitted.

"We opened up to the boys to say, look, if you ever want to speak, because we know times are hard if you're stuck in the house and whatever.

"I've found myself on the phone to 18-, 19-year-old boys discussing their mental health and offering them support that way. That's stuff you wouldn't even consider when you take on the responsibility of being involved in a football team.

"It's been hard but, coupled with my work, I'm fortunate that I know these partner agencies anyway. To be able to earmark them for these things is always reassuring.

"Zoom meetings and whatever is all just to keep them interacting and keep them busy.

"You go from one extreme to the other. You've got boys who it's not affected them at all but there's other boys you could see when we were training, were worried about contact and trace. It tends to be the young ones, which is a bit of a surprise, but they're probably more aware of mental health.

"It's just about offering them that support."

Crossgates boss Alan Campbell added: "We keep in regular contact.

"We're giving them a couple of weeks off just to deal with their own things, work-wise, family-wise, and then we're going to start putting them on fitness programmes just in case.

"We'll start getting them looking at their fitness again because, if and when we get back, they need to have some sort of sharpness."