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Soccer Chaplains United Refines Focus for 2021, Transitions Counseling Emphasis

Dec 14, 2020

As 2020 comes to a close and with 2021 on the horizon, Soccer Chaplains United is making a significant shift in emphasis for the foreseeable future — namely, the elimination of an internal counseling emphasis for the organization. The shift comes after this past year of analyzing and assessing the continued viability for the organization to carry out counseling service for soccer as part of its own makeup and DNA.

There are a number of reasons for what I am calling a “shift of emphasis” that I will share here. But before I do, I want to recount what I think is a still commendable history for counseling in the Soccer Chaplains United organization with the simple timeline graphic below.

Beginning in 2011 — a key conversation with a professional soccer player led us on a journey of trying to “marry” counseling and chaplaincy. It was born out of the idea that there were certain things where a clinical counselor was better trained and equipped to address (mental health areas) and where a chaplain and counseling team might better serve, holistically.

In spite of the upcoming shift, Soccer Chaplains United fundamentally still values and believes in that; however, we have reached a point as an organization where we continue to struggle to see the necessary growth and reconciliation of some key factors internally. Those pieces lead us to believe that we need to go about the chaplaincy and counseling collaboration in a different way.

Some of the key pieces for our consideration included:

  • Soccer Chaplains United — our name didn’t help grow counseling very well and wasn’t as representative (for counselors, especially) and transparent as necessary.
  • Limited resources — in truth, legitimate, clinical sports counseling has very few (although growing) amongst its membership. Soccer-specific counselors are even more difficult to find. For us, it’s not that a counselor and to be soccer savvy, but there is a certain subculture to soccer that is key and critical to understand.
  • Financially — typically chaplains are volunteers in professional sports (this is currently true of all Soccer Chaplains United chaplains); counselors are not. There is a disparity as unpaid chaplains “hand-off” or refer people to counselors who are fee-for-service. While we had aspirations to provide free or subsidized counseling, this was a much harder sell than we anticipated and led to very short lifespans (and conversations) amongst interested counselors.

There were other, smaller considerations for us around the decision, but a number of things that we believe Soccer Chaplains United will continue to uphold and value will help make our mission and vision leaner and also continue to move forward as we seek to serve those in soccer:

  1. We still value and believe that qualified and capable (sometimes known as licensed) Christian counselors and counseling is needed and important for affecting change and offering holistic care and support to those we serve in soccer. To this end, Soccer Chaplains United chaplains will seek to develop local counseling relationships to whom they can, when appropriate, refer.
  2. Differently from most professional sports in North America those in soccer, especially in the lower professional divisions and elsewhere, often lack the financial means to afford counseling fees. To this end, Soccer Chaplains United chaplains may raise and determine a budget for counseling subsidies in their annual budgets.

We believe that this refinement — coming as we have devoted the past six years to seeing and working through a model to try and develop chaplaincy and counseling together, may come at an important time and hopefully this “rest” from development will see the counseling emphasis grow in a better, more organic way outside of Soccer Chaplains United.

By way of practicality, for Soccer Chaplains United, we have taken down the counseling portions of our website. Brooke Ewert will continue to be a localized resource for referral and a help for chaplains serving in the Denver Metro area, but her volunteer role as Director of Counseling will be dissolved. It maybe bad form to quote myself in a story that I am writing, but I wanted to make sure that my own comments about Brooke standout from the rest of the story:

Brooke, has been an amazing person to journey with as part of Soccer Chaplains United. She has grown with us and I am excited to continue working with her in the future (albeit in different ways) to help provide for the mental health needs of those God allows me to serve in soccer. I am glad to have a trusted person to refer people on to see and I look forward to seeing her and her practice grow in the years to come.

Brad Kenney, Volunteer Chaplain Colorado Rapids on Brooke Ewert

I also never want to diminish the people who have worked to serve alongside of Soccer Chaplains United (and formerly, CrossTraining). Cody Baker and Nicholas Runyan also helped in the forming and shaping of best practices and different levels and layers of care. We were also glad to be able to successfully host the first known counseling internship amongst a professional development academy in North America. Those will be some gems and historical highlights that will always be a part of the Soccer Chaplains United story.

Soccer Chaplains United is non-profit, 501(c)3 and depends upon the financial support of individual donors and church partners to carry out our work of chaplaincy service across all levels of soccer. Our chaplains are not employed or paid by any of the clubs that we serve. Simply click the PushPay (the big P or give tab) link below to make a secure, online, tax-deductible gift, or mail a donation to Soccer Chaplains United, PO Box 102081, Denver, CO 80250.

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