Sixteen years ago when I started working in sports ministry, I had a pager on my belt and responded most quickly to people by using a pay telephone beside the road. My staff manual was in a massive 3-ring binder. Cellular phones were huge, bulky and of poor call quality. I had a desktop computer with a massive 30 megabyte hard drive. All my correspondence with the ministry’s national office was by snail mail or phone. How did we communicate in those days?
Today, my Blackberry is in constant use. My staff manual is 100% digital and on-line. Cell service is now international. My laptop has some ridiculous number of gigabytes for its hard drive. Most all my communication with our national support center is electronic, by web site, email, phone call or text messages. A monumental shift in sixteen years.
What are the implications of such changes for us as sport chaplains and sport mentors? From my perspective the answer is communication and the content of our correspondence is more important than ever. Let’s consider some guidelines for communicating with our colleagues and those whom we serve:
• Encourage, encourage, encourage – the sports world is so full of bottom line, results oriented people that we who focus on the process and the relationships are very important.
• Use every instrument of technology at your hand – at fifty-four years of age I am finding new ways to speak to the hearts of an ever-widening sphere of influence.
o Email enables one to communicate quickly with people across the world.
o SMS text messages are quick, brief and make it easy for others to respond. One can even create groups within his phone to make sending one text to dozens of people very quick and easy.
o Social networking sites (facebook, twitter, Linked In, etc…)
o Phone calls
o Blogs (many of these can be done at no charge)
o Personal web pages
o Contributions to organizational web sites, on-line magazines, blogs, etc…
o Contributions to colleagues’ web sites, blogs, etc…
• Take a moment to see who is in your network (local, regional, national and international) and look for ways to encourage them.
o Support Personnel (administrators, physios or athletic trainers, equipment managers, office managers, etc…)
o Other sport chaplains or sport mentors
• Look for the most advantageous moments for communication.
o Pre-game – I often send SMS messages to coaches and players both the day/night before they compete and a few hours prior to game time. I write so as to encourage, to challenge and to inspire.
o Post-game – I also write them after I know the results of the games in order to either congratulate or console, always to encourage, to affirm their value and being unconditionally loved.
o Randomly – As someone’s face or name runs through my mind I’ll often take it as a prompting from the Lord to send a quick email, text message or to make a call.
• Use some wisdom related to content of your communication.
o Be very careful to not divulge privileged information about players, coaches and situations. A tweet related to a player’s injury could change the betting line on a game and your information could suddenly be the subject of a gambling investigation.
o Never make critical comments on-line about the coaching staff, decisions made, players, their performance, etc…
o Don’t expose players’ spiritual lives to public scrutiny. If they want to be “public Christian sportspeople” they will give you permission and will hopefully ask your guidance.
o Keep your relationships with the sportspeople as your highest value and the measuring stick for what is appropriate for one to write, speak or text.