How does a catholic church historian get interested in sport? Much like many of us Dries Vanysacker grew up riding his bike and playing games with a ball. This boyhood love, together with is academic training as a church historian, has formed a line of work which documents and investigates sport and the catholic church, past and present, and has made Dries an expert of the history of sport and catholic faith in Europe and beyond.
Injuries happen to all of us, sometimes in sports. Sport psychologists like Diane Wiese-Bjornstal have studied the social factors that relate to physical activity injury risk and recovery for years, but now her research is focused on something from her own Christian faith and athletic experience, something called religiosity. Diane shares her in-depth knowledge of the literature and offers wonderful advice to athletes and leaders in sports.
There’s nothing quite like living in community. With his wife and children, Will Whitmore lives chaplaincy from sun up to sundown at Mercersburg Academy, a boarding school in Southern Pennsylvania, USA. The immersive experience allows pastor Whitmore to connect with high school age students in all areas of life, including sports. While Will serves as the School Minister and teacher of history and religion, he is also completing a PhD focused on sport chaplaincy in elite sports settings.
Michael Jones felt a nudge from the Holy Spirit. In response, he finished his doctoral degree, kept coaching basketball, and wrote a book. The book explores the symbolic connection between the sport of basketball and faith. Michael is a practitioner, on the court every day, trying to better understand both his sport and faith, and to have a motivating impact through his coaching and ministry.
Chaplaincy has become part of the DNA of UK sports. Chaplains are now part of clubs at every level, for players with all abilities, in every sport. Growing this mission are pastors and chaplaincy experts Warren Evans and Matt Baker who serve as senior leaders for Sports Chaplaincy UK. Together they are expanding the reach of chaplains into new arenas, and matching those with gifts and desires to serve as chaplains to an appropriate sports club – training them to be “expressions of God’s love and compassion in every community called sport.”
A young athlete sat on a bus in England and dared to tell a younger athlete that he followed Jesus, and that made all the difference. That young listener was Graham Daniels, who since has done it all in UK football. He’s played professionally, been a coach and manager, and was a broadcaster for BBC radio. Today, Graham is the Director of Football at Cambridge United Football Club, and is also the General Director for Christians in Sport, a vibrant ministry of 40 years whose purpose is to reach the world of sport for Christ.
Though most will say that sport builds character, the evidence is far more mixed. Professor Sarah Schnitker of Baylor University studies personality and social psychology, focusing on how things like religion and even sport facilitate or hinder human character. Sarah shares the results of her research thus far, and dives deeply into the rarely studied virtue of patience, making applications to health, sport, faith, and meaning in life.
Northern Ireland’s Drew Gibson is a fan of sports. He follows Ulster Rugby and the Northern Ireland football (soccer) club, so it makes sense that’s he never really heard of American football player Tim Tebow or about his attempted comeback. But as a pastor and practical theologian, Drew engages in culture in a very intentional way, including exploring a coherent theological approach to sport. Join us for Drew’s thoughtful and theologically rich exploration of sport, and his reflections on Tim Tebow, Sabbath, and much more.
Tim Tebow is trying to resurrect his NFL career. This offseason, the now 33-year-old Tebow surprised the sports world by earning a tryout with the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars in his home state for Florida. But this time, the Heisman trophy winning quarterback is trying to make the team as tight end, a position he hasn’t played since high school. Brian and Chad discuss the chances of Tebow’s success, the polarized reaction to his attempt, and how a person known as much for Christian faith as football is impacting the world in a new way.
This last year was no fun for athletic directors. It was a year of checking Covid 19 data, interpreting ever changing policies, developing protocols, testing athletes, enforcing masks and distancing, and delivering bad news. Hope College AD Tim Schoonveld is no exception. He recalls a year he’d like to forget, but along the way remembers the kingdom mission of the Gospel and the joy of sport.
The 3rd Global Congress on Sport and Christianity is set for August 18-21, 2022 at Ridley Hall in Cambridge, UK. But though over, the 2nd congress continues to add to the conversation. Building on the work of Bernard Suits in his famous book on play and games featuring the grasshopper as the main character, Brian and Chad discuss contributions by presenters and authors on play and its place in sport, faith and life. The articles previewed in this podcast will be part of a special issue of the Christian Scholars Review coming out later in 2021.
By day Ashley Null is an Anglican priest and scholar specializing in the theological notebooks of reformer Thomas Cranmer – and by night, he’s a chaplain to the most elite Olympic athletes providing as he describes, “Cranmer for jocks.” Elite athletes have to earn their worth, and this performance based identity can trickle into their spiritual lives. In his storytelling and lyrical way, Null reminds them where there’s fear, love can’t grow. Our efforts in life and sport are not to try to get something we don’t have, but to give away and express what we’ve been given.
No matter where’s he’s been in the world, the words win, build, and send have been central to the mission and work of Dean Bouzeos. Dean is currently Director of Operations for Athletes in Action, a ministry organization based in Xenia, Ohio known for using the visible platform of sport to win people for Christ, build them up in faith, and send disciples of Jesus Christ into their spheres of influence to make a difference. Dean shares the evolution of AIA and describes the organization’s growth and goals for a new generation of athletes.
A single question asked of Brad Kenney on a soccer field prompted a 20 plus year calling into sport ministry. Reverend Brad Kenney is the Chaplain for the Colorado Rapids of Major League Soccer USA and founder and executive director of Soccer Chaplains United, an organization created to grow sports chaplaincy in soccer communities, including for coaches and officials, in the US and beyond. Through his stories Brad describes the unique work of a sports chaplain at an elite sport level and passes on the humble wisdom he has learned from his mentors and years of faithful practice from the touchline.
Why would a self-described non-athlete and atheist write a book about Christian women and sports ministry? We put that question to Annie Blazer, an anthropologist of religion and author of Playing for God: Evangelical Women and the Unintended Consequences of Sports Ministry. Annie shares her story and the sometimes unexpected discoveries of her study. Annie raises good questions for us all to explore together as we journey forward in sport and faith.
In a quickly changing world, families and communities need something to rally around, and Brazilian pastor, author, and sport enthusiast Alexandre Borges de Magalhães believes sport has positive a role to play. Alexandre works at home in Brazil and though his broad connections across numerous countries to draw out the virtues of sport for youth and families. His rich Christian vision of the integrated human being encourages all of us to play sport to reach human fullness.
Play Like a Champion Today is a youth sport organization that sees great value in sport. The non-profit organization is leading a worldwide effort to promote a youth sports culture of opportunity, fun, and character development for all children. With deep roots in her Catholic faith, former gymnast, Notre Dame football cheerleader, and current PLCT program director Kristin Sheehan articulates the organization’s underlying theology and justice-oriented approach – helping all children to play like and be, a true champion.
Veteran FCA leader and sport team chaplain Roger Lipe recounts how he entered the world of sport ministry with little knowhow, but instead with a love of sport and a genuine desire to love and serve athletes where they are. Now a quarter century later, Roger shares his learned wisdom on a weekly blog to hundreds of sport chaplains around the world and has written 14 books to help mentor the next generation of team chaplains and life coaches. Join us for our chat with Roger, a natural relationship builder with knack for know what to say, and what not to say, when connecting with all types of coaches and athletes.
Lace up your skates and join us for pond hockey with Matt Hoven, Professor of Catholic Religious Education at St. Joseph’s College at the University of Edmonton in Alberta, Canada. When teaching sport and faith, Matt probes far beyond simple connections, choosing instead to thoughtfully dissect both the turmoil and joy that sport has to offer, then reunite them as central practices for individuals and communities. In this episode Matt explains the rituals of religion and sport and how each can uniquely contribute to human flourishing. Quoting Pope Pius XXII and Father Bauer of hockey coaching fame, Matt urges us to always use technique, but let the Spirit prevail.
The famous ESPN 30 for 30 documentary The Two Escobars describes Colombia soccer by its connection to drug cartels, corruption, and violence. Christian Union Soccer Club founder Marcos Wittig tells his own Colombian soccer story, but with a much better ending. In this episode Marcos describes how a small soccer club in Colombia grew into a Gospel spreading mission reaching tens of thousands of young soccer players and their families. The amazing story continues today, and Marcos describes it with humility and gratitude, and invites all of us to Colombia to experience it for ourselves.
Tee it up! Tracy Hanson was a standout NCAA student athlete at San Jose State University and from there played 15 seasons as a professional golfer on the LPGA tour and around the world. After retirement Tracy began to explore the anxiety and unhappiness that plagued her professional life, leading her to come to terms with the harm and abuse she experienced as a child and young athlete. Tracy’s life story of sport and faith is one of redemption and hope and has led her to a new ministry helping athletes of all sports who have experienced similar trauma. Join us for this inspiring conversation with Tracy!
Don’t know much about Dr. Andrew Parker? He calls himself unremarkable, but he’s not. Dr. Parker has traveled a unique path, combining his expertise in criminal justice, research, and sport with a Christian faith driven heart to help the most vulnerable. Beyond his distinguished career studying the sport-faith connection and sport chaplaincy, he’s a wonderfully modest person with great insight. And, he’s got a secret to share!
When signing children up for sports programs, people always say that “sports build character.” However, it is obvious to those who play and study sports that that character is not always positive. In this episode, Dr. Bolt and Dr. Carlson talk to Andrew Meyer, associate professor at Baylor University, about the character of sport. Andy Meyer’s speciality revolves around the idea of Muscular Christianity and how many athletes, like Lance Armstrong, embody that ideal (or fail to). As Dr. Meyer says, “sport is what you make of it.”