Toby Guest, 27, from Penarth, Cardiff, had a bright future as a professional footballer, but when an injury ended his career he saw it a threat to his whole identity and way of life.
Toby began dealing drugs to keep up with the lifestyle of his footballing friends, but was arrested by armed police and sentenced to five years in prison, where his confidence completely disintegrated.
Toby says: “Looking back, the scariest thing was that I was doing something completely illegal and it just seemed normal. It felt like my job. I was so naïve and had no comprehension of what could really happen. Prison hit me hard and was a massive reality check.”
In prison, Toby became withdrawn and lost all his self belief. With so much time on his hands, he realised he needed to do something that would help him get a job when he got out. Despite his dyslexia, he successfully completed an Open University course and was later encouraged to take part in our Get Started with Football course at HM Parc.
Places on the course were limited, but Toby’s enthusiasm and determination to do something positive secured him a place. His well-being improved, he started setting new goals, and his transformation was praised by prison officers as an example to offenders of what could be achieved if you used your time constructively.
Toby’s attitude made an impact on the coaches at Cardiff City FC too, where the programme was run. In fact, they were so impressed with Toby’s conduct, they made him an offer that marked the start of a new future for him.
“They offered me a voluntary position at The Club helping out on Prince’s Trust programmes. They said I could take up the post when I was released or sooner if I moved to an open prison. That helped me massively – to have two big companies like that giving me this opportunity was incredible."
The transformation Toby has made is quite remarkable. He became a full time tutor at Cardiff City FC running Get Started courses for unemployed young people, and is now working for an international sportswear company.
He recently won a Celebrate Success Wales 2014 Breakthrough Award, was involved in a special documentary which saw him returning to HM Parc to run a football session and meet HRH Prince Charles and Trust Ambassadors, Ant and Dec, and he is completing his Foundation Degree in Sport and Football Coaching. Toby is happier than he’s ever been.
“A lot of organisations that are involved with kids can be quite gimmicky and don’t appear to be genuinely concerned for the person. The Prince’s Trust does – and that’s what makes the difference.”