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Chaplains for Sports Teams

Chaplains for Sports Teams

Since we are deep in the United States football bowl season, one wonders if these sorts of chaplains could help with the issues that face college and pro players. They are available for all faiths and those with none. They don’t proselytize but  support players and staff through good times and bad.

A majority of professional soccer (football) teams in the UK have chaplains- volunteers both lay and ordained. According to the New York Times

The work is done over a quiet cup of coffee, in the privacy of the physiotherapist’s room, or through a brief chat on the touchline after training. It might be no more than a quick text message or email, asking if everything is O.K.

It is supposed to take just one day a week, but in reality it means being on call, 24/7, even years after the work has supposedly ended. It is entirely voluntary, and wholly unpaid. It can be sad and troubling: dealing with addictions and pain, fear and death. But it can be joyous, too: helping with births and marriages, healing wounds and building relationships.

Read more about the variety of chaplains and their work here.

Two stories:

Angy King (lay chaplain)

King knew she needed time — and a light touch — before the players might be prepared to share their concerns and their anxieties with her, but she believed even in those quiet first few months of sitting and listening, she could still have an effect.

“I’ve read studies that suggest the presence of a chaplain can make a difference without saying anything,” she said. “Just being aware that someone is there helps.”

Liam O’Boyle (Church of England chaplain)

“Because of the community work we do in the church, I’m very fortunate to know a lot of churches, mosques and temples in the city,” he said. “It means I can help players who are not from the city to find somewhere to fulfill their faith needs.

“It can be difficult, for example, for a Muslim player to go to Friday prayers, because of the training schedule, or for a Christian player to attend church on a Sunday if we have a game that day. We can help with that, to let them know what times things are. We can put them in touch with imams or ministers who can help, or with players at other clubs in similar situations.”

Helping players establish those links in a new city, O’Boyle believes, is crucial, regardless of whether they are religious. “The nature of football — especially where we are, in League One and League Two — is often short-term contracts,” he said. “The players are often living in a hotel. Their wives and children might not come with them. It can be a lonely time.


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Wouldn’t it be loverly if ministers acted as though we needn’t be talking every minute? People remember God, even if fleetingly, when they see the chaplain. I like Angy’s ‘time [trans. patience] and a light touch’ approach.

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