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Painting the Picture — Jubal McDaniel

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Recently, Jubal McDaniel, volunteer chaplain to Tacoma Defiance shared an email with the rest of the Soccer Chaplains United team about his experience thus far in working out chaplaincy service for his team context. Our conversations with Jubal began in late 2020, with COVID and the pandemic in full-swing, it took time for the introductions and beginnings of ministry. More headway was made in 2021 — Jubal as able to meet and serve the team in many virtual ways and towards the end of the year, in a few, tangible ways. What follows below are some of Jubal’s reflections, which I believe give helpful insight into the work of soccer chaplaincy and some of the challenges and ways to take on those challenges when serving in a context like MLS Next Pro.

Outside of my role with SCU, I coach girls soccer at both the junior high and high school level. One of my assistant coaches loves to use the phrase “paint the picture.” As coaches, we should “paint the picture” for our players to understand what it is that we expect from them. This could be in word and deed. For me, this has become a great help within chaplaincy.

The role of a chaplain is a foreign concept that most people do not understand. We might use metaphors or other more widely used terms to describe the ways in which a chaplain might care for and serve the club. I do this a lot when making an introduction. Chaplains cover a lot of ground and it can still be confusing and hard for someone to wrap their brain around. I am entering into my second season serving the Defiance, and I am the first chaplain to serve the club. I am actively trying to build trust and relationships with everyone at the club – especially since I was not able to be with them in person last season. Therefore, I have spent a lot of my time interacting via text, phone, social media, email and occasionally Zoom. Combine that with the club’s transition into the new MLS NEXT Pro league, almost an entirely new roster, and a stadium location change. The staff are working extremely hard and are busy trying to coordinate everything. I take every opportunity that I can to list ways that I can help and ask if there are any specific needs that I could help with. Yet, sometimes we have to “paint the picture”. Painting requires motion, creativity, intuition, patience and time. The diversity of colors also brilliantly describe the diversity of tasks that we take on as chaplains. I can tell someone what a chaplain looks like and I can ask for ways to help, but it only goes so far. 

The role of a chaplain is a foreign concept that most people do not understand…sometimes we have to “paint the picture”. Painting requires motion, creativity, intuition, patience and time.

Jubal, on the work of a chaplain

Today, the Defiance hosted their first match of the MLS NEXT Pro season. After the match, I had the opportunity to meet the coaches and shake hands. Again, I had not met them face to face before. I stood around and waited for the players to exit the locker room. While I was waiting, I saw the Team Admin hustling back out to the field…its relatively warm out, he’s sweating, and still working hard. I walked back to the field and said, “How can I help?” He greeted me with a bright smile, asked me how I was and then passed me off to his operations team. We finished cleaning up the field while he was able to go off and do something else more important. I took my paint brush and painted the picture. I showed him that I was available, was literally ready to get my hands dirty, and am eager to serve. I don’t want to sit on the sidelines, but I genuinely care for the club and its people. For this reason, I was able to make at least half a dozen more connections and it had a huge impact on the Team Admin. 

Some of us are relatively new to chaplaincy, and others have been here for a decade or more. However, I hope that this encourages all of us to continue finding ways to paint the picture.

After serving in Major League Soccer for 20+ years, it is in simple ways like Jubal describes above that we can show love and care and value and worth to people. I commented to Jubal as we debriefed the first game, that even in him helping the staff clear the field he is helping those folks get home sooner — to their families, or even just to rest. Many times, at these levels, people give so much of themselves and often “over-extend” for the sake of the team, for the sake of the club and at the cost of personal well-being and health and sometimes their families, too.

As chaplains, care often begins in physical and tangible ways and it opens the door to gain trust and relationship to be able to speak into the deeper things that are related to a person’s spiritual, emotion, and mental well-being.

Soccer Chaplains United is non-profit, 501(c)3 and depends upon the financial support of our partners to carry out our work of developing chaplaincy across all levels of soccer. Please consider making a contribution today to help us continue growing our chaplains and our work. If you would like to contribute specifically to Jubal’s work with the Tacoma Defiance, please select “Tacoma” from the drop-down funds when clicking on the PushPay button or Donate tab.

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Sometimes the greatest act that a chaplain in soccer can take on is to simply help to clean up the pitch.
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