What do you think of when you see an athlete win a medal at the Olympics or your favourite football team, hopefully, lifting the coveted silverware? Success; of course? Fulfilment; maybe? Care-free living; rarely, if ever.
In the UK, conversations around mental health are gaining huge momentum, with Princes William and Harry raising the profile of the subject recently, but interestingly, the community of sport is ahead of the game when it comes to tackling these issues head on.
Media coverage has forced conversation and positive reform around mental health and wellbeing in the world of sport.
The pedestals upon which society elevates sporting stars can blur the reality that they are simply human beings, no different to you or I. High-profile sports stars like England cricketer Marcus Trescothick – who cut his international short due to depression – have shared their stories with great vulnerability and honesty, while former Wales manager Gary Speed’s suicide was widely documented. Media coverage like this has forced conversation and positive reform around mental health and wellbeing in the world of sport.
This is precisely where Sports Chaplaincy UK steps in, up and down the country. Week in, week out, from amateur level right up to the elite echelons of the sporting community, there are human beings in need of support, an ear to listen, a shoulder to cry on, and a word of encouragement.
When I walk into a sports club and ask people how they’re doing, taking a genuine interest in their welfare and what’s happening in their world, I am conveying the heart of God which says, “You are valued for who you are, not what you do or can achieve.” With sharing faith outside the walls of the church, it’s the small things that can really make a big difference.
With sharing faith outside the walls of the church, it's the small things that can really make a big difference.
People in the sporting community can often embody addictive personalities, as success at the top level requires an ‘all-in’ approach. Tony Adams, the former Arsenal captain and England centre-back once quipped, “football was my drug,” as he opened up to how a leg break drew him into alcoholism, simply because his drug of choice had been stripped away. This is why it’s crucial that chaplains are available to respond to the questions of life, bringing hope and encouragement when injury hits or form dips, supporting people who are often treated like commodities by their sport and its fans
Sport is not just what you see on television or read about in the newspapers, though; there are over 151,000 registered sports club in the UK – a community totalling millions of people. And it doesn’t simply stop on the field. Sports chaplains also take a pivotal role behind the scenes, talking and sharing with backroom staff, office workers, cleaners, fans and more.
As the Church, we have a crucial responsibility, not to make people choose between sport or church – often meeting at conflicting times in the week – but to step out into all communities and areas of society, as a loving presence to communicate the heart of God.
'Chaplain' most likely throws up some stereotypical images, but as a former bouncer in excess of six foot, walking around with no dog collar, I probably break the mould.
At Sports Chaplaincy UK, we have a vision to see a chaplain present in every professional and amateur sports club across the nation. But what does a chaplain look like? Well, ‘chaplain’, most likely throws up some stereotypical images, but as a former bouncer in excess of six foot, walking around with no dog collar, I probably break the mould.
With the correct training and passion for the sports community, anyone with a love for God and people can become a sports chaplain. Sports Chaplaincy UK run training courses and seminars in order to equip and inspire current and future chaplains, all centred around our key values; presence, excellence, confidentiality and humility.
Do you think you could help us fulfil our God-given dream to see chaplains present in every sports community in the UK?
For more information, head to Sports Chaplaincy UK.