Growing Better Lives

Back of the Net – Sport and Mental Wellbeing in Rome

The poster for the final conference.

In October, GBL was incredibly proud to be part of the final conference of the ANPIS/ERASMUS “Sport Per Imparare, Impara Con Lo Sport” (or “Sport For Learning, Learning With Sport”) project. The conference, which was held at the Hotel Villa Vecchia in Frascati, marked the culmination of several years’ partnership working and collaboration between organisations from across Europe. These included our hosts from ANPIS (Associazione Nazionale Per L’Inclusione Sociale, or the Italian National Association For Social Inclusion), alongside members from the former Oxford Coasters sport and mental health wellbeing group, researchers from the University of Hanover, partners from the Ljudska Univerza Rogaška Slatina in Slovenia, and more.

A team game of volleyball between project partners in Frascati.

The aim of the multi-year project was to create a compendium of best practice for empowering individuals suffering mental distress through non-competitive sport, bringing together people from diverse backgrounds and countries in an attempt to break down language barriers and create a sense of inclusion no matter their history (or sporting ability!).



This compendium included a formal set of criteria for gauging the effects of inclusion through sport on personal wellbeing, as well as the details of several fascinating projects that the partners had embarked on using a biopsychosocial approach – such as one project, “Una Vela Per Tutti” (“A Sail For All”), that offered participants the opportunity to engage in weekly sailing groups and measured the corresponding increase in their wellbeing over a lengthy period of time.

The view from the Via Sacra at Monte Cavo.

However, in true relational fashion, the trip included more than just the conference… There was also the chance to get stuck in playing some sport and explore the beautiful region of Italy in which the conference was taking place! Courtesy of our wonderful hosts Roberto and Elena with ANPIS Lazio, we were invited to visit the gorgeous lake at Castel Gandolfo, the Pope’s summer residence, along with a trip to the Via Sacra at Monte Cavo (with a sign that proudly proclaimed it to have the most beautiful view in the world—see what you think!).


As well as seeing the gorgeous sights, there was also a chance to explore the heart of Rome with a visit to the Colosseum and the Trevi fountain.

Our trip to the Colosseum

The food throughout the trip was delicious, from breakfast at the hotel to meals at authentic Italian restaurants—including one that also doubled as a karaoke bar in the evenings!

Between the superb wine and the welcoming embrace of our hosts, the conference ended up being an excellent opportunity to foster good relational practice with our European friends as well as a brilliant chance to come together and celebrate an innovative, exciting way of working with people who experience mental health difficulties. We gained a new appreciation of sport as a way of bringing together those from different backgrounds and facilitating a sense of togetherness and camaraderie that can be challenging to create in a more traditional, medicalised therapeutic setting. The insight of our project partners as well as the stunning vistas of Rome worked in concert to create a truly memorable and insightful experience… Even if our football skills could use some work!