Serving in sports: Chaplains are integral part of team dynamic

Illustration by Olivia Havre | Photographer

By Avery Ballmann | Staff Writer

Rather than serving in churches, these chaplains are serving Baylor’s athletes on the ice, atop the turf in McLane and in the dirt of Getterman Stadium. A chaplain provides spiritual care for a person as well as reaching beyond that definition by preparing Bible and life lessons in and out of the arena.

Each chaplain designs a weekly or bi-weekly devotional for the team. They also reach out to their athletes and team members by asking for prayer requests, getting coffee or communicating through text.

Lynn, Mass., Graduate student Matthew Cole is the Ice Hockey team chaplain. Cole, who has been chaplain for two years, said this role was created by Daniel Atkins, hockey club president, to make sure that faith was an integral part of the team dynamic.

“As an athlete, we’re playing from love, not for love,” Cole said. “So, we’re not here solely for being supported by fans, that’s great. We’re really here to worship God through our sport.”

Another example comes from Baylor’s All-Girl Cheer team, which has 35 members. Keller sophomore and co-chaplain Paige Gosset said head coach Jenny Farmer created another chaplain position to be more beneficial to the team. Gosset said having faith and trust in her teammates is a big part of cheerleading.

“It’s definitely helped our dynamic since we are literally lifting each other up in these crazy structures,” Gosset said. “I want to believe it’s because we are really focusing on each other as teammates more now than ever.”

Gosset said her and her co-chaplain, Buda senior Summer Lewis, have noticed more girls coming to them when they are in need of help. Gosset said she joined the team her freshman year and experienced a dip in her faith due to her classes and commitments, so she and Lewis personally reach out to freshmen members to check in.

Director of Softball Operations and softball chaplain Dani Price is a Baylor alumna and came back to the university because she said there is no other place like it. Price is a part of the sport’s ministry team lead by John Maurer that consists of other chaplains from men and women’s basketball and golf.

Price said they meet once a month to grow in each other spiritually and learn how to provide those ideals into their teams.

“It’s helpful to just hear what other people are going through,” Price said. “But also, it’s really encouraging to be poured into as well and just kind of refocus our eyes on the Lord if we’re getting stuck in the hustle and bustle of everything.”

Price graduated from Truett Seminary in 2017 with a Masters of Divinity with a focus in sports ministry. Cole is currently pursuing this track at Truett and said the hockey team has given him hands-on experience.

Cole said he has encountered a handful of men on the team that aren’t of the Christian faith, but he said he has the best conversations with these individuals because they have been kind and ask questions.

“Part of me is obviously excited, because I can see there’s that little spark, that desire to know more,” Cole said. “It’s also, for me, it’s nice to hear from that outside perspective.”

Gosset decided to try out for the chaplain position because she said she wanted to hold a leadership role on the squad. She said she discovered that in this role, she now fills her cup instead of trying to pour out of an empty one.

Through the carved out time of preparing morning practice devotionals, Gosset said she now gets to read the Bible and pray for her teammates.

“What we’re doing is pretty scary and dangerous, considering that we’re tumbling and stunting, and we’re doing it at 6 a.m. a lot of the time,” Gosset said. “So, it is good to have God in our hearts during those times and be able to pray for safety.”

For the softball team’s devotionals, they are focusing on and sharing each other’s testimonies. Price said for female athletes, their achievements are performance based. She said it’s easy for a person to lose their identity in what they’re trying to pursue.

“Whereas faith is completely different,” Price said. “There’s no amount of striving or work you have to do to earn God’s love, and so to try to teach this thing of ‘the Lord loves you, whether you succeed or fail.’ It’s so anti-cultural, everything we know is that God’s love cannot be earned.”

Though these chaplains serve different teams, their values of team dynamic and faith are cohesive.

“I worked at two other universities and then decided I wanted to come back because Baylor gives you this unique opportunity to share the Lord very freely,” Price said. “We get to coach and teach and instruct with being able to share scripture and encouragement through God’s truth.”