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 front line 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, former Manchester United manager, said "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 chaplaincynand the work of Sports Chaplaincy UK to you.”
Glentoran captain, Marcus Kane said “Our club chaplain helped me to gain a unique perspective on issues I had . He went above and beyond for me in my time of need."
Northern Ireland International Megan Bell said “There are so many things people don’t see going on in an athlete’s life away from the playing arena – and this is where the chaplain can play a pivotal role."
Cliftonville chairman, Gerard Lawlor said "We as a club have benefited enormously from having a chaplain and Dario has been of value to not only the players and staff but also the board"
Sports Chaplaincy UK (SCUK) has had the privilege of serving UK sport for over 25 years.
The charity started by John Boyers whilst serving as chaplain at Watford Football Club and who went on to become chaplain at Manchester United has been in existence for many years. They provide support to around 70% of the professional English and Welsh football clubs, plus almost all the professional and semi professional Scottish and Northern Irish Football League clubs
So what is Sports Chaplaincy and what exactly does a club chaplain do?
Sports Chaplaincy is a Christian charity 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. In the competitive world of sport it is recognised that there is a need for high quality pastoral and spiritual care regardless of age, ability or gender.
Working professionally, caring sensitively, demonstrating integrity and maintaining confidentiality are all the hallmarks of the Club Chaplain. Compassionate and resilient , each chaplain will bring with them a vast range of skills, knowledge and expertise to help build perspective and navigate individuals through areas such as uncertainty , injury and identity.
Chaplains are extremely supportive and bring a non-judgemental, listening ear and an empathetic and compassionate presence . As chaplains’ journey through life with all the staff at their club, they are able to provide pastoral support and spiritual care to everyone irrespective of faith tradition or no faith , through all the difficulties and challenges that life brings as well as being an encourager to all.
Sports Chaplaincy UK is the charity that trains, supports and helps facilitate the work of club chaplains within each setting. To this end, each chaplain will receive training covering issues ranging from safeguarding to the unique role of being a professional sportsperson and everything in between including specialised training in areas such as bereavement, trauma, addictions, family care , anxiety and stress and mental well being . They also partner and work with other organisations such as Sporting Chance, State of Mind and Care for the Family to ensure that individuals have access to the very best specialist care .
Download the new booklet from Sports Chaplaincy UK and the Mental Health Foundation to support the wellbeing of Elite and Dedicated Athletes in Northern Ireland and Wales. The booklet primarily deals with managing uncertainty, identity and injury, but is also packed with helpful tips and avoiding unhelpful coping strategies and the importance of the club chaplain.
The booklet includes contributions from David Healy, Stephen Baxter and Megan Bell as well as Sir Alex Ferguson and International Sports Performance Coach Jeff McCreadie. There are additional contributions from former Irish Cricket captain Kyle McCallen and former Ulster and junior All Blacks player Nick Williams plus Welsh Rugby Union defence coach, Byron Hayward.