LAPS welcomes Leon Mckenzie

Leon MckenzieWe’re absolutely delighted to welcome on board former pro footballer and super middleweight boxer Leon Mckenzie! Leon joins us as our new Head of Partnerships, and we couldn’t be more excited about it.

During his footballing career, Leon played in all four English professional leagues, starting out with Crystal Palace in 1995. He made appearances while on loan at Fulham and Peterborough United, scoring nine goals across 15 games, before joining Norwich City in 2003 as part of the side which won promotion to the Premier League. Later he played for Coventry City, Charlton Athletic and Northampton Town, retiring in January 2013 after stints at Kettering Town and Corby Town.

After his footballing career, Leon focused on boxing. It was something that he’d grown up with thanks to his dad, former British and European boxing champion Clinton McKenzie, and uncle, three-times world boxing champion Duke McKenzie, and his career got off to a flying start. In 2014 Leon won his first professional title, winning the international masters belt. In 2016 he narrowly missed out on the English super-middleweight title, and was in an epic fight for the southern area title which some say was the fight of the year. Leon retired the next day at the age of 39 in September 2017.

Since retiring from boxing, Leon has campaigned heavily to change attitudes towards mental health, having struggled himself with depression while playing for Charlton Athletic and attempting suicide. Thankfully Leon was able to come back from that low period, and his experience has made him determined to work as hard as possible to end the stigma around mental health issues, particularly in men. Taking on his new role at LAPS is all part of that mission.

“There are lots of psychological issues when you retire from professional sport,” he says. “It’s all down to preparation. The end of your sports career is not often within your control, and often it’s something you haven’t really thought about or prepared for. That’s when it becomes really hard to cope with. The work LAPS is doing is a really important part of that, so it was a total no brainer to get involved.”

As well as his work with LAPS, Leon is an ambassador for CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably), a mental health charity dedicated to the prevention of male suicide which adopts the ethos of “If you care, share charity.” He makes regular appearances at academies across the country to talk about mental health issues, sharing his experiences and encouraging people suffering to get help. A big focus for Leon in 2018 is producing an important documentary, Ten Count, in which LAPS will also feature. Based around Leon’s journey, he will be interviewing athletes all over the world, getting into the real issues surrounding mental health after sport to help raise awareness and tackle the stigmas around this important subject.

“No matter what stage of your career you’re at, no matter how wealthy you are or how good you’ve got it, things happen in life that are outside your control. Anyone can suffer with mental health issues, from any walk of life – you never know what’s going to happen. I care passionately about helping people to deal with those issues, and am really excited to be a part of LAPS, helping sportspeople to prepare for the next phase of their lives.”

Welcome on board Leon – we couldn’t be happier to have you with us!