Soccer coach shares inspiring story after losing a leg
Salisbury soccer coach Steve Dobbin was already struggling before COVID-19 emerged.
Still, to some extent, dealing with the death of his father in 2011, Dobbin had lost his leg to a golden staph infection following a relatively innocuous, barefoot backyard clean-up in October last year.
Fortunately, through the support of his "Queen", his partner Tara, he has learned not to push people away when dark clouds inevitably gather.
It's a truth he wants to instil in his young charges at Salisbury United Football Club, through a burgeoning mental health group.
A few months ago, Dobbin could sense a few of the younger players were battling off the pitch and could use an outlet to shed some emotional weight.
And now, the club is planning to draft in a professional counsellor, and apply for a Salisbury Council grant, to get the program really up and running.
"Everyone goes through tough s**t," Dobbin says down at the club on a chilly August evening, surrounded by a handful of proteges.
"(And) I've been through a lot of s**t."
He admits COVID-19 has been "bad" for him, but his problems were well rooted before then.
"I was in a very dark place in my head," Dobbin says.
"Thoughts don't leave and give you a break."
Looking his players in the eye, he asks them to take a vow.
"Promise me and promise yourselves you won't let the little ones snowball into big ones," he says.
"Deal with the little ones. It's easier, it's more beneficial."
Dobbin should know, as it wasn't that long ago he had accumulated a "truckload of little ones"; the legacy of failing to deal with his problems, each and every day.
But things are starting to change, recently taking his Irish wolfhound for just their second walk since he lost his leg.
"It's good to get back some normality," he says.
"We need to take any positivity we can out of each day."
Although he often jokes to his kids it was bitten off by a shark, Dobbin lost his lower limb in pretty innocuous circumstances; he scratched his foot while cleaning up the backyard after a weekend with the boys in October last year.
However, he stepped in some organic soil and it needed a clean out.
Then, Dobbin caught golden staph during his hospital stay.
"I lost two toes and a chunk, then a third toe," he says.
"It kept travelling. In the end it was my choice to have it removed.
"I'd had enough of being in and out of hospital."
While the past ten months have been a grind, he learned an important lesson: never refuse help.
"I went to a dark place in my head, started pushing people away," he says.
Luckily, his partner Tara, or his "Queen", was the biggest part of his recovery, even if he didn't see it at first.
"Tara and I fought like crazy. But she finally got me to listen," he says.
"I wouldn't have been able to do it without her."
He says people going through hard days often don't realise support is always available.
"You end up pushing people away because you don't want to have to deal with it," he says.
"Understanding and trusting other people with my feelings (has been a lesson), and opening up with my feelings.
"To a point where your mates say: 'can you shut your feelings up for a bit?'."
Despondency also stirred some dark memories, like his father, Pat, succumbing to a brain tumour back in 2011.
He went from diagnosis to death in about eight months; the type of horrific decline from which he wanted to shield his children.
"To see him go from a bear to a little midget bloke, a little skeleton, was f*cking horrible," he says.
He hopes the new group will help players find some comfort, with a handful already reaching out to Dobbin's psychologist friend.
"There's no shame in talking," he says.
"It helps to get through it. If anyone you know, anyone, is struggling as well and would like some help, tell them to come in.
"And whatever happens in fight club, stays in fight club."
Originally published as Soccer coach shares inspiring story after losing a leg