Can sports chaplains be coaches??? If you had asked me this question a few years ago I would have responded with an unequivocal ‘NO’. And these are the reasons why one of performance and one of spirituality –
1) Sports Chaplains operate best when they are independent of performance. A chaplain needs to provide advice and counsel to an individual that is centered on their holistic well-being and do so when you know it might be that such advice will be to the detriment of the athletes sporting ambitions. How can you do that and be a coach at the same time? – it’s a pretty tough ask. And what is an even bigger ask is to expect the athlete to confide in you if they know in doing so is going to jeopardise their selection in the team.
2) There is a real danger of blurred lines for the athlete also if the chaplain has both roles. For example how many athletes have attended a bible study, in the hope that their spiritual enthusiasm may influence selection!
This is why we are of the strong opinion that the Chaplain should not wear ‘two hats’ – it causes much confusion and creates conflicts of interest. However the issue is no longer an unequivocal no. In seeing the development of sports chaplaincy globally one has to be more pragmatic. Though the above is a preferred stance there are many countries where chaplaincy will never be officially recognised, nor accepted. So for some their only opportunity to provide that spiritual and pastoral care so desperately needed is by wearing two hats. We pray for them that they will have the grace and the wisdom to take on this challenge and thank God for their passion and compassion to show Jesus’ love to all.