MAN v FAT is ‘the only league where losers win’ – F365 speak to the four best coaches in the UK

Jason Soutar
Team post for photo at MAN v FAT Football National Finals, 2021

MAN v FAT Football is surely the most fun way to lose weight – and Football365 had the chance to speak to all four Coach of the Year nominees ahead of this weekend’s 2022-23 awards ceremony in Manchester.

Behind every great team there is a great coach. That is no different in MAN v FAT Football, where so many dedicate their time to helping men play the sport they love in an environment they feel comfortable, all while being able to shed some weight over a realistic period of time.

Mark Lamb claimed the Central award for all coaches in the region but has been winning on the pitch since joining five years ago.

He started as a player and has lost an outstanding 11-and-a-half stone, stepping into the coaching role when he found out the Wolves league was being set up. It took a while to get things going, but he has never looked back.

“It seemed like something I wanted to help with as MAN v FAT has helped me so much,” Mark told Football365.”The key thing was to have the example of what I did.”

Mark has always been eager to support all newcomers and knows there are plenty of hurdles to overcome, emphasising the importance of setting achievable goals.

“The big thing is being realistic… you are going to have days when it is your birthday, or if you have a bad day at work, but knowing you need to get past that and being able to get past that is a big step,” he said.

Mark Lamb shows off his weight-loss transformation

The brilliant thing about MAN v FAT Football is the fact you are losing weight as part of a team. Everyone is in the same boat and being in a football team makes it easier to motivate and have camaraderie as a collective group.Group chats are crucial. Mark and his players were able to organise a charity walk from Birmingham City’s St Andrew’s to Wolves’ Molineux – stopping off at every football ground along the way. They raised over £3,000 and developed their relationships with one another. Six-and-a-half hours’ worth of walking “really brought everyone together,” Mark says.

There are three main aspects to MAN v FAT: losing weight; improving your mental health; and playing football.

Mark feels he has “reinvented” himself since joining all those years ago. It has been a long journey, but being able to pick up an old t-shirt and compare it to a current one puts everything in perspective and can give your mental health a huge boost, perhaps more so than seeing improved results on the scales.

READ MOREEverything you need to know about MAN v FAT, the unique way for men to lose weight

Mark is joined in the final four for national Coach of the Year by Swansea’s Ben Gleeson, who was named the winner for the South West region, despite passing on his job to his assistant last December.

Ben was “staggered” finding out he had been nominated for the regional award having, like Mark, joined as a player five years ago when he was at his heaviest.

He has lost an amazing 30 kilograms and decided to challenge himself in August 2021 by stepping into coaching.

Ben had to “work his backside off” to get the league up and running, but it is now the largest in the United Kingdom, the team becoming national champions in January; the division has been nominated for League of the Year.

It was Ben who outlined the three priorities in MAN v FAT: “Football is the third priority. Losing weight is number one and improving your mental health is number two.”

The team aspect is a constant theme here. It is what makes MAN v FAT so special and unique. Men trying to lose weight on their own usually experience a loss of motivation after a few weeks, but here, everyone is in the same situation, everyone has to pull together and the fact you are playing football sometimes helps you forget the fact you are actually there to lose weight.

“The point of MAN v FAT is not to lose weight quickly but to lose weight slowly and consistently,” Ben added. “Losing 0.1 kilos a week is a success. Even if you are losing something every few weeks it is big. People struggle to see the big picture.”

Community support

MAN v FAT is “one of the best ideas I have seen in a long time” and “is so rewarding on a number of levels,” says South East winner of the Leyton club, Bob Stamegna.

Being a part of a team gives everyone “accountability” while “there’s a sense of community and support,” and it is not just down to the coaches to motivate their players; the guys on the pitch have to make sure they are motivating their teammates and keeping their head screwed on.

After all, scoring goals on the pitch isn’t the only way to win; you can pick up points from losing weight off the pitch.

Bob, originally from New York, believes “building a relationship with the players is the most important thing” as it can help the process of giving feedback to improve their lifestyle. He is very close to a number of his players, which contributes to the comfortable environment at his club.

Like any weight-loss process, this is not straightforward, and motivation tends to be one of the biggest hurdles to overcome. It is important for players to “examine their mindset” and take heavier weeks as a “learning experience,” Bob says.

“Failing is an opportunity to learn” and keeping goals small – just like Ben was keen to point out – is crucial. If you think about it, the smaller the goal, the easier it is to achieve, and achieving a goal is one hell of a confidence boost.

Beverley Young of Carlisle won the North award and was filmed where the league takes place and in her home by the BBC as the journey of three players was followed.

The 28-minute documentary was a “brilliant way” to get MAN v FAT out there, which Beverley has been pushing to do from day one, going to workplaces where you would typically find more men to hand out paper flyers to try and get the club up and running.

There remains media coverage on the amazing work Beverley is doing with the Cumbria Crack on it weekly, learning the stories of the guys and the results.

There is so much support throughout the Carlisle club. Beverley has a heart transplantee who plays in goal but suffers mentally whenever he concedes. Thankfully, his teammates are always there to keep him going.

Something that epitomised MAN v FAT was the day a team went off the pitch with their heads down having lost a penalty shootout after a 2-2 draw, only to see the score shifted to 11-7 in their favour thanks to the weight loss – the number one priority.

“The only football league where losers win,” Beverley, pictured right above, says.

The personal touch goes a long way. Whenever someone signs up it is not a case of telling them where to go and what to wear; Beverley will call them up, have a proper conversation and pass any information they are willing to share onto the team, so the newcomer instantly feels welcome.

It is the little things like this that go a long way and why one of Beverley, Mark, Ben and Bob will be named Coach of the Year in Manchester on Saturday evening.

Beverley was shocked to be considered and knows Ben – who has always been there to help her – very well.

“Staggered” Ben feels winning the award “would be the cherry on top of the cake,” but like all good coaches, is focusing more on the league and the players and what awards they can take home.

Bob feels honoured to be considered and would appreciate the recognition but recognises that all of the other nominated coaches are brilliant.

“I genuinely never expected to be in the final four,” Mark said. “I was honoured to be put in the central region category.”

Whether or not they win the national award, all four are extremely proud and deserve all the praise in the world for what they do.

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