Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Inaugural Global Congress on Sports and Christianity

Please consider making plans to attend the Inaugural Global Congress on Sports and Christianity, 24-28 August, 2016.

In light of the dramatic increase in academic research activity and practical initiatives on the topic of sports and Christianity over the last decade, the Faculty of Health and Life Sciences at York St John University, in collaboration with the Bible Society, will host this event.


The aims of the IGCSC are to:

· Encourage global collaboration between academics, practitioners, politicians, clergy, administrators and athletes

· Produce quality academic and practitioner publications that have societal impact

· Through intentional mentoring and collaboration, develop individuals in their sphere of influence

· Affect a ‘culture shift’ in modern sport through the sharing of ideas and practices and a ‘coming together’ of individuals from across the academic disciplines and all streams and denominations of Christianity, culminating in an inclusive and ecumenical event.


The IGCSC will be held over four-and-a-half-days and will comprise: a gala dinner, keynote lectures, parallel sessions, a panel led by the Bible Society, a three-hour seminar for each of the fourteen ‘thematic strands’, a ‘student forum’, and a networking event, in which representatives from practitioner organisations, research centres and publishers will be able to share information. A sport-themed service will also be held in York Minster, one of Europe's finest Cathedrals, this event will include an interview with ex-premier footballer, Linvoy Primus MBE and ex-paralympian, Anne-Waflua Strike MBE.

To ensure the continued development and long-term sustainability of the field, an international organising committee has been established to devise and operationalize a long-term strategic plan to ensure similar events take place every three years (in appropriate institutions around the world). The importance and timeliness of the IGCSC, 2016, has been ‘endorsed’ by a wide variety of individuals.


York St John University campus is at the heart of the beautiful and historic city of York, England. Find out more about York St John University and the city of York here.

Thematic Strands

The IGCSC will comprise fourteen ‘thematic strands’, which collectively address existing and emerging topics in the broad area of sport and Christianity. During the congress there will be a three-hour interactive seminar on each thematic strand which will be facilitated by a small group of academics and / or practitioners who are recognised for excellence in their respective fields (click on thematic strand titles below for biographies of Strand Chairperson and Co-Leaders).

A number of academic and practitioner publications will emerge from these thematic strands, as detailed below.

Abstracts submitted for consideration for oral presentations (parallel sessions) to be scheduled through the four days of the congress, can focus on the thematic strands, or may address any topic within the broad field of sports and Christianity.

The thematic strands are as follows:

· Sports Chaplaincy

· Sports, Peace and Religion (with a focus, but not exclusively, on the 2016 Rio Olympic and Paralympic Games)

· Theology of Disability Sport

· Sports, Bioethics, Performance Enhancements, and Biotechnology: Theological Reflections

· Fathering and Mentoring through Sports and Physical Education

· Women, Sports and Christianity

· Sports Ministry

· Historical Perspectives on Sports and Christianity

· Catholicism and Sports

· Ethical and Social Issues in Sports: Christian Reflections

· Global Perspectives in Sports and Christianity

· Christian Sociological Perspectives on Sport

· Sport, Christianity, Health and Well-Being/Wellness

· Sport, Psychology and Christianity

Please join me at this landmark event in the development of sports chaplaincy among both practitioners and academicians.

Monday, December 21, 2015

The Impact of Hip Hop Culture on the World of Sport

Since first beginning to consider the impact of Hip Hop culture on the world of sport and, in particular on the players and coaches I personally serve, during a presentation at the Black Coaches Association convention in Indianapolis during the previous decade, I have sought ways to understand and to express it. The clash of cultures experienced by many coaches, sports chaplains, administrators, and even fans may be better understood and better navigated with some contemplation.

I was struck by the presenter’s assertion that the Hip Hop culture was as foreign and perplexing to the mainstream of African-American culture as the hippies of the 1960s were to mainstream Caucasian culture. I have observed players and their families over the twenty-two years of serving sports teams at our university as well as observing shifts in the general culture of the USA. Much more than a musical genre, fashion sense, graffiti, or vein of film, Hip Hop “is best thought about in the same way as radical western philosophical movement.” To think that this culture is limited to African-Americans is terribly naïve and misinformed. Hip Hop culture transcends race and class distinctions in the USA and even abroad. Corporate entities have learned how to take advantage of it and use its influence to market products of all sorts.

Beyond such personal observations, I have done some reading and decidedly non-academic research to try to better understand what I have seen. Among the most helpful articles I have read is an article by Anthony Thomas from New Statesman on 12 September, 2007. The article contains some language that was most helpful to this fifty-nine year old, white guy from Southern Illinois. “Hip Hop unlike other ways of life does not have a single text that lays out the tenets of culture it does not have a bible, Koran, Torah or Bhagavad Gita, it is not a religion. Philosophically Hip Hop is best thought about in the same way as radical western philosophical movements like existentialism and libertarianism that promote freedom of thought and expression. It is built upon the notion of the open society, there are no fixed moral or cultural codes.” This was very much like the sentiment expressed by the gentleman at the Black Coaches Association several years ago.

Mr. Thomas defines Hip Hop culture like this, 'The cognitive, creative and emotive expression of Western youth of African descent who attempt to find success and meaning within the social realities of their lives that are characterised by poverty, racism and urban decay.'

The article goes on to articulate some of the central doctrines of Hip Hop culture. I would like to list them and to then discuss their expressions in sports culture. 

1. Keep it real.

2. Speak truth to power.

3. Change the game.

4. Represent your hood.

5. Express yourself.

“Keep it real.” This value seems to trump all others in the Hip Hop movement. It finds its expression during interviews with players as they fatalistically say, “It is what it is.” With no idealism or any sense of what something should be or could be, this value defaults to the present state of being. To keep it real is to express your thoughts, emotions, or opinions without regard to the consequences. To exercise self-control over your emotions or your tongue is seen as inauthentic. Authenticity is possibly the highest virtue in Hip Hop culture. This authentic expression of the player may be in direct conflict with the coach, manager, officials, or other authority figures who demand respect and a more controlled manner or expression. Such unbridled authenticity is often a source of controversy in the world of sport.

“Speak truth to power.” Many coaches and others in authority in the sports world bump head on into this Hip Hop value regularly. When a player challenges the authority of his coach or her administration, they present a problem most are not ready to address or to even understand. Demonstrations like the one during introductions of a St. Louis Rams (NFL) game in the fall of 2014, where three players took the field in the posture of the “Hands up, don’t shoot,” movement rising from the Ferguson, Missouri shooting, demonstrations, and riots resulted in outrage, applause, and confusion. Your reaction was determined by your view of the movement and the events, but they felt perfectly justified because they were speaking truth to power. When the University of Missouri Football team announced it would strike, not play the next week’s game, in joining the student protest movement on campus, they were speaking truth to power. Their head coach sided with the players, and soon both the president and chancellor of the university were ousted. This value will challenge authority and often in the most public and inconvenient manner. Sports authorities are in no way exempt.

“Change the game.” Hip Hop is a very fluid movement. Johnson describes it this way, “Hip Hop is a revolutionary culture that revels in its irreverence. A Hip Hop driven life has no time for tradition, Hip Hop is a culture of permanent rebellion, a constant challenge to the status quo making it a culture of outsiders.” Its fluidity is due to the lack of bedrock beliefs, thus anyone can change the game to fit his or her agenda. To change the game can be accomplished via an event, a song, a film, or even a tragedy. Those who know how to change the game can take advantage of a shooting like that of Michael Brown in Ferguson, a tragedy like Hurricane Katrina, a film like, “Straight Outta Compton,” or any of the thousands of Hip Hop songs that capture the culture’s imagination for their requisite 15 minutes of fame. This culture is seen in sport through a myriad of expressions from constantly shifting uniforms, pregame music in the stadium, headphone wearing players who are disengaged from their teammates in team settings, and any other cultural expression that runs contrary to the general culture. To change the game is a virtue in itself.

“Represent your hood.” The breakdown of the traditional family in American culture has led to the totally self-determined Hip Hop definition of family. Family is whatever you say it is. The NFL’s expression of this is in their marketing campaign with the tag line, “Football is family.” Players will refer to their home town neighborhood as family, to their teammates as family, to their clique as family, or anyone else they determine as loyal and true to them. Players will represent their hood via telephone area codes written on their eye black or their shoes, through tattoos on their bodies, or by flashing gang signs in photos. The sense of responsibility and obligation to their hood felt by players who succeed is seen in their foolish use of money and influence. This is certainly one cause of the dramatic prevalence of bankruptcy among professional players who are shortly bankrupt after ending their sporting careers. To misunderstand the loyalty and responsibility felt by players can cause a great deal of grief for coaches, chaplains, and others who care for players in moments of crisis.

“Express yourself.” Watch the NFL, NBA, MLB, College Football or most any high school sporting event and you will see a wide variety of celebrations for touchdowns, dunks, home runs, or even the most mundane accomplishment on the field or court. To express oneself is central to Hip Hop culture, and to do it creatively, uniquely, with style and swagger is of even greater value. This value is expressed in interviews with the media as the player seeks to establish his brand or to show his style by how he speaks. It is seen when team culture and sportsmanship are cast aside for showmanship. It is demonstrated when professional players treat press conferences like fashion shows. It is tattooed and even branded onto their arms and even on their necks and faces. To keep it real and to express one’s feelings, without filter or restraint, is among Hip Hop’s central doctrines. To push back against these expressions will be labeled as racist or bigoted. 

To navigate these cultural waters with players is neither easy nor tidy. We who love them must be willing to deal with the chaos and messiness we feel as we seek to lead them to fulfillment of their goals and God’s purposes. My purpose here is neither to solve cultural dissonance nor to ask that you adopt Hip Hop culture as your own. Rather, I would ask you to seek to understand the culture from which the vast majority of players come and to find new and effective ways to communicate the grace and truth of Christ Jesus in light of it.

Friday, December 18, 2015

2016 FCA Sports Chaplain / Character Coach / Campus Director Conference

Details are being arranged presently, but I would like to have you save the date for FCA’s annual conference for Sports Chaplains, Character Coaches, and University Campus DirectorsApril 11-13, 2016 at FCA’s National Service Center in Kansas City, Missouri.

This conference is a good fit if you are a volunteer serving sports teams at any level, if you are a sports ministry staff person with chaplaincy responsibilities, or even if your role is 100% with a team or a university campus. Sports chaplains from any and all stations of service are welcome and will find their ministries enhanced.

This conference is always very well done with inspiring plenary sessions, informative breakout sessions for those serving in various settings, and lots of time built into the schedule for networking and sharing of best practices between individuals.

Please plan to attend and watch this website for more information and a link to register on line.  General information about the conference is below.


Conference Information


Option 1: $249.00 - Covers lodging, meals and conference expenses
Option 2: $125.00 - Covers meals and conference expenses

Travel Information:

Flights should arrive no later than 3:00pm on April 11, 2016, and depart no earlier than 1:00pm April 13, 2016. Please book your flight to arrive at the Kansas City International Airport (MCI).  Transportation will be provided to and from the airport to the conference.

Cancellation Fee:

Cancellations after April 4, 2016, will result in a $50 cancellation fee per person.

Deadline to Register:

April 4, 2016 (After April 4, there is no guarantee on available space).

Questions? Contact Molly Collins at (816) 892-1161 or

Friday, December 11, 2015

Reprise - Coaching Transitions

During this time of year there is an onslaught of coaching changes, primarily in college football (American Football). As of this morning, there have been twenty-five changes in head coaching positions, just at Division I FBS. Add in all the changes at Division I FCS, Division II, Division III, and NAIA. Multiply each of those by 10 to 12 to reflect the impact upon their staffs and multiply those numbers by the members of their families and one suddenly has a feel of the impact of such changes.

This year in particular, it is more personal than normal. Our head coach was fired a week ago Monday. In the span of two days, four of my coaching friends who had never been fired from coaching jobs, all had their contracts terminated. Such moments really assault the hearts of men like these. I feel the weight of their grief, loss, and even shame. The sense of loss and failure cuts them deeply.

Below is an article I first wrote in 2007 related to coaching staff changes and how we can best navigate these turbulent waters while seeking to serve wisely and in ways that reflect Christ Jesus’ heart. I hope it is of value to you.

Coaching Staff Transitions

Through my many years of service as a sport chaplain with college football, basketball, volleyball, baseball and other teams, I’ve endured several staff transitions.  Some were due to resignations to take new opportunities and some due to firings.  Either way, they’re not easy do deal with for the staff or the chaplain.  Below are some simple thoughts on how to make the transition and to maintain your relationship with the new coaching staff, the support staff and the players.

Related to the outgoing staff:

·        If the staff was fired, understand that this feels like failure and a lot like death to them.

·        Help the coaches to see this situation within the sovereignty of God.  The Lord is not surprised by this.

·        Understand that the transition is probably harder on the coach’s family than on the coach.

·        Be available to them.  They may not want much company, but if they welcome your presence, be there.

·        Be prepared for the termination of some relationships.  Some relationships will live beyond their tenure with your team, but others will cut off all ties to this place and you could be cut off as well.  

·        Communicate respect and thankfulness for their time with your team as well as hope for their future. 

·        Assure them of your prayers and availability to serve.

·        Written communication is very good and can be an enduring encouragement to them.  Send a card, an email and/or periodic text messages to stay in touch with them.

Related to the incoming staff:

·        Pray for favor with the athletic administration and the new head coach.

·        When a new head coach is announced, send a letter of congratulations immediately (keep it to one page).

·        When the coach is settled into the office, get an appointment to welcome him/her and to offer your assistance. 

·        Bring a gift (a book) that is reflective of your desired relationship with the coaching staff and team.

·        A wise attitude is reflected in offering to do, “as much or as little as the head coach believes appropriate.”

·        When discussing a role with the team one can reference his/her role with past coaching staffs, but don’t lock into those methods or activities exclusively.  

·        Let the coach paint the parameters for your role and work to build trust and credibility from there.

·        It is always wise to offer to serve with no strings attached.  Guard your attitude from presumption.

·        Come prepared to discern the coach’s perception of his/her, the staff and the team’s needs.