An Introduction to Sports Chaplaincy
Within the Northern Ireland Football League at every club there is a myriad of talented people behind the scenes supporting the players week in and week out. From the manager, in the frontline and his coaching and medical staff, the administrative staff, the scouts, the sponsors, the tea ladies, those who launder the kit, the groundsmen - the list goes on. Among these is the Club Chaplain.
The Sports Chaplain is increasingly becoming part and parcel of club life across the spectrum of not just football, but sport as a whole. The majority of the NI Football League clubs now have an appointed club Chaplain.
Sir Alex Ferguson commented "Chaplains can be of help to all sorts of people involved with sport, when crisis, need or difficulty comes. I commend the idea of sports chaplaincy and the work of Sports Chaplaincy UK to you."
So what is Sports Chaplaincy and what exactly does a club chaplain do?
Chaplaincy is primarily aimed at the care and welfare of players and staff but also at the wider community of people within the club including supporters and families of players and staff.
Working professionally, caring sensitively, demonstrating integrity and maintaining confidentiality are all the hallmarks of the Club Chaplain.
The following A to G of Sports Chaplaincy defines what the role normally involves.
A - Acquaintance - The club chaplain seeks to develop natural relationships and to build trust with the players and staff through regular, natural interaction.
B - Being - The Chaplain is there at Games, Club events as they take place, sharing the experiences allowing for opportunities to connect with players, staff, families and supporters
C - Caring - Caring for players, staff, their families and supporters is an important aspect of chaplaincy. This focuses on supporting them through lifes events (injury, bereavement, retirement), caring for them through the normal treatment and rehabilitation process, including hospital visitation.
D - Development - With the number of young adults and players involved in football, it is important to provide for their personal development. The provision of life-skills training, help with integration into the wider community and advice on the preparation of "life after football" are areas where the Chaplain can add value.
E - Events - Chaplains will also engage to reflect the highs as well as the lows of peoples lives in celebrating life. This may involve the Chaplain in Special occasions such as weddings, christenings, or seasonal events such as Christmas or Birthdays.
F - Formality - In a more formal capacity the Chaplain can provide a vital and recognisable link with the Community. As well as Church services in which Chaplains are involved on the clubs behalf, they can also assist the club with safety and disaster procedures, write articles for the clubs programme etc.
G - God - Chaplains are motivated by a real and dynamic Christian faith, but they are available to all people irrespective of faith convictions. Chaplains are pastorally proactive and spiritually reactive, ensuring they do not impose their beliefs on others.