Sport seems to revolve around emotional extremes. It’s perhaps what makes it so irresistibly compelling: the chance to either bask in victory and witness the impossible become possible, or equally, observe a devastating defeat and feel the despondency that is sure to follow. It’s that title clinching injury-time Sergio Agüero goal or equally, that John Terry penalty slip etc.
Managers, coaches but more specifically the players across all sports not only experience this emotional rollercoaster every time they play, but have other pressures added to that. Pressure from worldwide fans, the invasive 24/7 nature of celebrity life and the stress and strain of personal tragedies in between are all part of the modern-day sports star’s experience. Maybe you can see why more and more teams from all sports have decided to make a surprising new addition to their squads – chaplains.
Chaplains, vicars, and pastors the services that they supply are naturally confidential and unseen, but that doesn’t disprove the unexpected figures from one of the biggest Christian charities, Sports Chaplaincy UK:
- Two thirds of the 92 clubs in the Premier League and Football League now have chaplains
- Three quarters of the teams in Rugby League also have them (all teams will have them by the end 2012/13)
- There is substantial growth in the number of chaplains in Rugby Union, horse racing, cricket, motor sports etc.
- There are over 220 chaplains in sports across the U.K and Ireland.
Those who manage players that are deemed the most talented will go to great lengths to make sure that they feel as if they can perform to their maximum ability. Indeed, initially chaplains sound as if they have been brought into settle some players’ bizarre superstitions. But, players can be overwhelmed by injury, bereavement, loneliness and depression:
Tragedies like the passing of Dan Wheldon in the Indy Car World Championship Race in Las Vegas last year, Olympic luger Nodar Kumaritashvili’s death during the winter 2010 Olympics and Fabrice Muamba’s collapse in March this year, all highlight exactly the void that chaplains fill. They’re independent and separate from their clubs and offer pastoral and spiritual support whilst holding the player’s best interests at heart. Ergo, it’s never about getting the player back to winning ways at whatever the cost.
This years Games were described as “a landmark chaplaincy” whereby there were 350 religious figures applying for 193 chaplaincy positions for the nine different religions at the Olympics. It demonstrates how much importance has been given to the role that chaplaincy plays in modern day sport from both a religious and supportive perspective.
It’s easy to see chaplains as bible-advocating preachers but, with the stigma that’s attached to some unapproachable taboo subjects like mental health and the pressures of sport being so demanding, it was a matter of time until they became an integral part of teams. Many of us struggle to comprehend what it is exactly that high-earning, lavish lifestyle owning sports stars could possibly be struggling with, but maybe it’s not always that easy. In a pressured, competitive sports environment, this level of confidential and supportive care for players and staff is extremely beneficial by simply existing in the first place.
By Adam Venner