Recently, Major League Soccer (MLS), National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) and United Soccer Leagues (USL) have all announced plans for returning to play. MLS has yet to declare or confirm actual dates, but the reported plan is to have a league-wide, 30-day tournament in Orlando, FL to re-start the season. NWSL have already revealed a schedule for the 2020 NWSL Challenge Cup, a 25-game tournament beginning June 27. The USL Championship has announced July 11 as the provisional “return to play” date, though many more logistics need to be confirmed and factored.
This week I have been in contact with Soccer Chaplains United chaplains throughout the U.S., and we are also seeing most of the college and high school teams (in varying capacities) readying to come back in the fall and resume collegiate and HS athletic programs, albeit with some likely changes and guidelines with the novel Coronavirus pandemic.
So what about chaplains? How have chaplains been serving during this time when sports and soccer, specifically, have been so significantly altered?
Well, there have been Zoom Bible studies, grocery store runs to help get toilet paper or diapers for athletes without a car and unable to make it to a store, hospital visits, phone call check-ins and much more.
If you were to have asked me at the beginning, how busy do you think you will be? I don’t think that I would have known how much time would actually be given to supporting people in the midst of the pandemic and now in the face of the protests that are happening around the U.S. and around the world.
For some, chaplains and those we serve, the time has been difficult. The suspension of sports and uncertainty of the future (some of which the uncertainty still exists) had been challenging. For many, the requisite lockdown and shut down of “normal” life has created a stress and strain on vocational life and marriages and on people’s faith.
But now, there seems to be some glimmer of hope — at least that things might begin to come back. Start to grow back. It reminded me of earlier this year when I pruned our rose bushes (see below). To be honest, it seemed to many that I had likely killed them cutting them back so far. It all seemed dead and lifeless.
But in due time (and with some proper water and sunlight) the roses are coming back. They are just now starting to bud out, so there won’t be as many roses this year, as in years past, but they are coming back. And sometimes simply coming back and flourishing, even in the midst of a difficult winter or heavy pruning season, can give us hope and room to breathe and believe. I know that I, for one, am glad to see new life beginning to emerge, again.