Moody Men's Soccer Season Comes to Close
In its first season, the soccer chaplain role at Moody Bible Institute for the Men’s Soccer Program may be deemed a success. The chaplain role, structured to expand the ministry provided by the head coach and assistant coaches, permitted Chaplain Pete Distler to speak into the lives of a very young team consisting of primarily freshman and sophomore student athletes, with nearly 80% of the roster underclassmen.
Coach Chris McHugh, developed a job description that would see Moody take on its first-ever chaplain for the Men’s Soccer Team. Soccer Chaplains United was able to help Coach McHugh, also an Assistant Professor, in Lifetime Fitness and Sports Ministry at Moody, develop the job description which eventually led to finding Pete. Coach McHugh has successfully guided the Moody Archers soccer program for the past 6 years with a key value of integrating faith and sport at the collegiate level.
For Chaplain Distler, the first year of soccer chaplaincy at Moody provided many significant ministry moments as the season progressed from pre-season right up through the last game at regionals. Distler commented on the character of the student athletes,
Moody soccer student athletes have a very strong Biblical foundation, identity in our Lord Jesus, and are very motivated to play for the King in training and games.
Building off the character of the players and coaches, Chaplain Distler also noted that individual and group activities incorporated their commitment to Christian character and a work ethic required at the college soccer level. Team culture reflected an openness and receptivity of players to adopt specific skill building and biblical principles communicated by the coaching staff and chaplain.
Team captains consistently led prayer in team huddles and reflected team values. This built a strong sense of team and family, and opened the door for Coach McHugh and myself to minister when more challenging situations transpired.
The season itself was a challenge from a win/loss perspective. Moody’s regular season record was 3 wins, 10 losses, and 1 tie. And while the athletes’ personal motivations and team dynamics were challenged, the scriptural admonition to persevere (James 1:25) was a powerful lesson learned by all. Coaches persisted in their communication to inspire hope, designed practices to improve skills/field tactics and encouraged athletes to accept ongoing peer correction. On the chaplain side, Distler was able to share his approach,
I really tried to focus on encouraging players in what they were doing well, which complemented their own observations (and often self-chastisement) of what they should be doing better. The opportunity for me to spend extensive time at practices and games helped build relationships that evolved into meaningful moments with each player.
In addition to supporting the athletes practice and fames, off the field, several players sought out chaplain Distler.
Counseling, prayer for health, academics, family, relations and life direction — these were all part of what players would seek me out for. There were also several critical issues to help international students work through. Weighing down a few athletes were family members in the path of natural disasters in Florida and Texas. Another was faced with the prospective threat of war as a reserve in the South Korean army. He had to be ready to respond to the North Korean missile testing crisis, if called home.
A number of athletes also experienced moderate to severe injuries. Prayer for patience to heal or remain patient for next season helped overcome each situation. Many players not cleared to play attended practices to encourage team members. This allowed Chaplain Distler the opportunity to build relationships whilst on the sidelines.
The season finished with a very disappointing loss at regionals (leading 2-1 with a few minutes in regulation) to a very good team, Chaplain Distler was on hand to console and comfort a team that had come so far and been through so much in just a few short weeks.