Ben Hampshire outlines Sports Chaplaincy UK's goal for the
WELCOME TO A COMMUNITY CALLED SPORT. It comprises a vast array
of smaller communities across the world. You may belong to one of
them. It is a community like any other. You may know of some in
your town or village. Whatever your level of sporting engagement,
it is wide-ranging and ever-growing in numbers.
What do you think of when you see an athlete win a medal at the
Olympics, or your favourite football team lifting the coveted cup?
Success? Of course. Fulfilment: maybe? Care-free living? Rarely, if
ever. We place sports stars on pedestals, but they are all human
beings, just like you or me. Here in the UK we are getting to grips
with conversations about mental health. Princes William and Harry
have recently raised the profile of the topic. But it's the
sporting community which is ahead of the game when it comes to
tackling such issues head on.
Depression cut short England cricketer Marcus Tescothick's
international career. He has shared his story. The suicide of
formerWales football manager Gary Speed was widely reported. Sport
has been forced into conversation and reform. This is precisely
where Sports Chaplaincy UK steps in. Week in, week out, from
amateur level right up to the elite echelons of sport there are
human beings in need of support, an ear to listen, a shoulder to
cry on and a word of encouragement.
We are not there to enforce our beliefs, we are there to respond
to the questions of life and to be there for people who are often
treated as commodities by their sport and its fans.
When it comes to taking faith outside the walls of the Church,
we can sometimes create towers in our minds that we must climb in
order to reach people. Chaplaincy proves that the small things can
really make a difference. When I walk into a club and ask people
how they are doing, offer a genuine interest in their welfare and
concern for what is happening in their world, I am conveying the
heart of God which says, "You are valued for who you are, not for
what you can do or achieve."
Chaplains are not there to preach sermons to players, but to
help guide perspectives on life given the rigorous demands sport
can make on mental well-being. Tony Adams, the former Arsenal
captain and England centre-back once quipped, "Football was my
drug." He shared how a broken leg drew him into alcoholism simply
because his drug of choice had been stripped away.
Sports-people can display addictive personalities. If they are
to succeed and reach the top level, they must adopt this all-in
approach. The consequences can be fatal, which is why it is crucial
that chaplains are available to bring hope and an alternative view
of life. Sports Chaplaincy UK is there when injury hits or form
There is more to sport than what you see on television or read
in the newspapers. There are some 151,000 registered sports clubs
in the UK. It is a community totalling millions of people. Nor does
it stop on the field. Sports chaplains play a pivotal role behind
the scenes, with backroom staff, office workers, cleaners, fans and
Show me a bigger community in our society than the community
called sport. As the Church, we have a responsibility not to force
people into a decision for one or the other simply because we tend
to meet at similar or overlapping times. We are called to be a
loving presence to communicate the heart of God.
If we can impact sport then we can impact our wider community
and our country as a whole. As we move into our 26th year, Sports
Chaplaincy UK has a vision to see a chaplain in every professional
and amateur sports club across the nation.
So what does a sports chaplain look like? The term most likely
throws up some stereotypical images. As a former bouncer, in excess
of six foot in height and walking around without a dog-collar I
probably break the mould.
With the correct training and a passion for the sporting
community, anyone with a love for God and people can become a
sports chaplain. At Sports Chaplaincy UK, we run training courses
and seminars 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
a chaplain present in every sporting community? Head to our website
to register your interest, attend an induction day and interview.
You can add another stroke of light to the canvas of grace that God
is painting through the community called sport.