Friday, May 20, 2016

Building Relationships with Support Staff

Last week we discussed the development of relationships with coaches. Today I’d like to have us think about how to develop relationships with a sporting team’s support staff. This includes a wide variety of people who support the coaches and competitors on a team.

The people I have in mind include:
·        Athletic administrators
·        Athletic trainers (physios)
·        Equipment managers
·        Operations managers
·        Office personnel
·        Team doctors

One may wonder why building relationships with these people is important. I would simply say that they are as valuable to God as is the most productive or highest profile player, the head coach, or anyone else associated with the team. In addition, building relationships with these people can make your service of the team easier, more effective, and deeper than it could ever be without their insight, expertise, and partnership.

Having a relationship of trust with the athletic trainer or physiotherapist, can be of tremendous value as he or she can inform you of injuries, upcoming surgeries, and other situations encountered by players. This information often leads to ministry opportunities for me.

Having favor with the athletic administration could be the determining factor as to a sports chaplain’s access to secure areas; practice, sidelines, locker rooms, etc.; as well as travel with a team. Without that relationship, the character coach is an easy one to drop from the passenger list.

The equipment managers of our teams have become friends, allies, and trusted sources of administration for me. I can quickly learn many details about practice schedules, travel details and more from the numerous managers around a college football practice.

To know and offer to serve the operations manager for a team is a wise and effective relationship to build. These people have to manage most of the logistics for a team’s travel and the whole process of game day. They are usually quite stressed and when we have an encouraging voice, hands ready to serve, and express thankfulness for their work, we build relationship quickly.

The head coach’s secretary, the office manager, and other personnel around the coaches’ offices are the gatekeepers to the staff’s inner sanctum. Make the office manager your friend. I was privileged to be married to one of these and her influence with four different coaching staffs and the daily lives of 100+ student-athletes each year could not be overstated.

Finally, to be familiar, even just acquainted, with the team doctors can be of tremendous value to you and to those you serve. The doctor can allow you into the personal life of injured competitors, can give you access to family and to moments of crisis for the player (surgery center, emergency room, etc.) so that you may serve most effectively.

In summary, a sports team’s support staff can be of immeasurable value to your efforts to serve the coaching staff and competitors on the team. Let’s be sure to love and serve the support staff in a similar way as to how we love and serve the competitors. Their eternal souls are of infinite worth and they are within our sphere of influence and responsibility.

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