At the age of 20, he secured an interview at Goodwood racecourse to be a grounds person. 13 seasons later and he’s still there.
The role is demanding; it’s not a 9-5 and the team work in all conditions, but Sam is immensely proud. He said: “I like having an end goal to work towards, something to prepare for – especially Glorious Goodwood. When you see the track looking pristine and you have trainers, jockeys, stable staff and the public saying it looks amazing – that’s a real buzz.
“People think that that when the season is over that’s it…but it’s year-round. You have to strip the course, overseed, rake, water and trim regularly to keep on top of everything and ensure it’s always ready.”
The nature of the role means that, while Sam is part of a team of six, he spends a lot of time on his own. “You do a lot of tractor work, which means you tend to have a lot of time by yourself and to think about things. I’m a really happy-go-lucky person and always have a smile on my face, but I got the point where I was struggling; trying to balance work and life, turning 30 was a big thing for me…my girlfriend noticed that I wasn’t smiling, wasn’t engaging in the same way that I used to.
“I became curious about mental health support but didn’t really know where to go. I followed Racing Welfare on Facebook, and then saw an interview on ITV Racing one day and so I gave them a call.”
Sam called Racing Welfare’s Support Line at the end of 2020 and, following assessment, was referred for some talking therapy. “I’d never really considered it to be honest. I had ten 1-1 sessions and it just helped me to get some perspective. I then had some weekly group sessions over Zoom, and that helped me to realise that I wasn’t the only one going through something like this. It helped me to find different ways of dealing with my anxiety, different ways of thinking about things and just going back to basics – I could still be Sam Cook.”
Sam is very open about how talking therapy changed his life and outlook and hopes that by sharing his story he might encourage others to seek support when they need it. Speaking in 2023 he said:
“I was seeing a local therapist on a weekly basis, but now I see them less regularly and book a session as and when I feel the need to speak to someone – to get something off my chest.
“I’m really grateful to Racing Welfare for the support they gave me and for helping me take that first step. I hope that by talking about it I can help other people recognise when they might need a little support and feel more comfortable coming forward to ask for help.”