Chaplains to Women’s Sports

Earlier in the year a Women’s Footy Chaplain received a distressing phone call from one of her club’s young players. Affectionately nicknamed ‘Chappy’ works retail in the city during the day and travels home of an evening. As she has done most weeks for the past 2 years, Chappy left her family after dinner, drove 35km to the northern suburbs, to meet with her player.

The young girl, a key member of her side, was deeply distressed and troubled about personal relationship issues. Not knowing who to turn to, and experiencing unresolved bitterness and anger she called her club chaplain to help ease her ongoing anxiety and depression.

Chappy spent 3 hours with her that night – followed by regular catch-ups, phone calls, chats after training and referral for professional help. The chaplain’s care was instinctive, authentic and sustaining.

A parent of another player approached Chappy on game day distraught and fearful. She was desperate to talk to someone who would listen and offer support. Her child was displaying suicidal tendencies.

Sadly, and understandably, these people never disclosed their pain to anyone in the club. Chappy just ‘being there’, on their turf, the footy club, made a life difference to the growing few silent sufferers. As one player said, “We’re so glad she’s here.”

High Performance Club Chaplains

Local Anglican minister Steve Webster was appointed Chaplain at the Carlton Football Club in 2004 during troubling events such as players accused of illicit drug use and the South-East Asian Tsunami that impacted many football clubs around Australia. Steve was given the dual role of assistant to the property steward at the club which soon evolved into assisting at training sessions.

Steve regularly spends time with players and staff giving a listening ear to their personal and professional challenges. For some Steve offers a sounding board and others a chance to off-load and seek understanding on non-football issues. He spends anywhere between a few hours to a couple of days during the week depending on circumstances and needs. He could be seen handing out water bottles at training, jogging a few laps with the rehab boys, kicking or hand-balling during drills, conducting weddings for staff or players, visiting a sick staff member in hospital or sitting with a player’s family on game day at the MCG.

"The Rev", as he is called by the players and staff, also serves as chaplain to the AIS-AFL Academy which provides training and development to 30 scholarship holders aged 16 and 17. Steve attends camps in Canberra and Melbourne during the year. As a volunteer he serves the team providing pastoral care as a compliment to the various other professional roles at the Academy.

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