Sam Cook had grown up around racing. While at college, he undertook a horticulture course which gave him the opportunity to get some work experience at Plumpton racecourse – a role he enjoyed so much that he frequently worked more than his allocated hours.
At the age of 20, he secured an interview at Goodwood racecourse to be a grounds person. 12 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:
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 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.”
While Sam is no longer accessing support, it gives him confidence to know that support is available. “I feel like I don’t need it at the moment, but I 100% wouldn’t hesitate in going back to it if I felt like things were getting on top of me again.”
Racing Welfare is a registered charity supporting the workforce of British horseracing. We offer professional guidance and practical help to the stud, stable and racecourse staff whose dedication is vital for the wellbeing of racing. Our work aims to help people, from recruitment to retirement, to thrive in day-to-day life and through a range of life’s challenges.
We understand that the role of ground staff is unique, challenging and varied, and the work you do is so important to making race days happen. Racing Welfare is here to support you whenever you might need us. Our award-winning workforce wellbeing programme aims to provide you with services to support you in your working and personal lives, whether that be physio for physical health and injuries, mental health support and counselling, or even careers advice and professional development.
Racing’s Support Line is available round the clock, seven days a week, and no problem is too big or small. Our services are completely confidential and non-judgmental.
Racing Welfare’s 24 hour support line enables people to access support and
guidance through digital and telephone options.