What is a Sports Chaplain?
A sports chaplain or sports pastor provides pastoral care for athletes and coaches alike. He is thus concerned about their spiritual, emotional as well as mental needs. Sports chaplains are very familiar with the top-competitive sports world as often they themselves were athletes before.
The origin of sports chaplains goes back to 1972 after the terrorist attack against the Israeli olympic delegation in Munich happened. At that time, the International Olympics Committee (IOC) realized that athletes require extensive supervision beyond their athletic activities. Ever since then, the Local Organizing Committee (LOC) commissions an international “chaplain-team” to be at the Olympics.
Area of Responsibility
The area of responsibility includes, among other things, conducting services, providing pastoral care and spiritual guidance, sickbed visits, and giving instruction based on biblical principles. The sports pastor is there to talk to and to pray with athletes and coaches alike and his work is highly confidential. Other fields of functions are marriage preparation courses for couples, weddings, marriage courses, baby dedications, and parenting courses. Here are some examples to help you become familiar with the chaplain’s responsibility.
Fatal accident of Georgian luger at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver:
The fatal accident of Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritaschwili cast a dark shadow over the Olympic Village. Jörg, as well as his Russian chaplain colleague and the medical team, was asked to provide pastoral care for the Georgian team. At that tragic moment there were also other olympic teams that saw the great need for somebody who could provide pastoral care for athletes. One female luger still met with Jörg even days after the accident in order to be able to process the tragic event.
Death of an athlete’s grandfather during the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver:
One athlete had to deal with the sudden loss of his grandfather during the Olympics. Jörg had already known the athlete before the start of the Olympics. In moments like these, athletes look for people they can trust and confide in. Many athletes cannot get themselves to set foot in a church service. But through personal talks and prayers, Jörg was able to stand by this young athlete who had to cope with the pain of losing his grandfather and the pressure of competition all at the same time.
Example of inter-denominational collaboration amongst chaplains:
The Catholic Father Bernhard Maier has been part of the Austrian olympic delegation – for both Winter and Summer Olympics – for 24 years already.
Jörg and Father Bernhard got to know one another during the past two Winter Olympics and were able to work together very well. They met for prayer and bible studies with the athletes. Jörg was invited to attend the Catholic mass and Father Bernhard attended the inter-denominational service. They became a really good team. The German delegation, too, has a Catholic as well as an Evangelical Priest on board.
St. Moritz, 2003
Ski World Championship 2003 in St. Moritz
DChurch Service with Norway’s Royal Family at the Nordic World Ski Championships 2011 in Oslo
Ursula Bruhin 4-times World Champion and Mentor
“I was under immense pressure during the Olympics in 2006. My talks with Jörg helped me a lot and I was so glad he was there. It just felt so good to have somebody to talk to that I could trust, someone who didn’t demand anything from me. I was able to tell him about the tension and stress I was feeling. He could relate, because we used to train together, and now he was even a certified person looking after me. That, in addition, gave me the peace and confirmation that I needed in order to know that the right person was taking care of me. Since we are both Bible-believing Christians, we were able to also seek God together to gain confidence and new strength from God.
The day before the World Championship race took place, a prayer team offered to pray for all of us competing athletes. I met up with them. We talked, sang songs together, and then they prayed for me. During that prayer I noticed how the immense pressure, the fear to lose and other mental blocks just suddenly disappeared. Refreshed and encouraged I went to bed that night. The next day I won the World Championship.”
Ursula Bruhin- Snowboard: four-times World Champion, six-times Swiss Champion, 109 times on the podium, 20 times first position at the World Cup, 7th position at the Olympic Games www.ursulabruhin.ch
„With Jörg Walcher’s background from professional sports as an athlete and coach himself, he really knows the circumstances in the sports-world. I worked together with him at the Olympic Games in Vancouver 2010 and the Ski World Championships in Oslo 2011. I saw Jörg`s sensitivity to know exactly when to stay in the background and when to be available. He is a good listener for those who want to sit down and want to talk about their pressure or failure, but he shows also a very good pastoral care for those who are seeking prayer, Church Service or Biblestudy. Jörg has a kind of personality that opens, reflects and gives joy and inspiration for all those who are around him.“ www.krik.no
Andy Dittert successful former player in the National handball team for Austria (record goal-scorer with 1,089 goals in 212 international matches) “Had I known earlier how important it is to have a living relationship with God regarding my self-worth and self-image and also regarding my relationship with family members and friends, my career would have looked very different, lacking the many ups and downs and inconsistent performances I was giving.”
Kelly Clark is part of a new wave of halfpipe-snowboarders who drastically raise the height and difficulty level when it comes to snowboard tricks. At the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Clark won Gold in the halfpipe competition. At the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver she won the bronze medal. She also won Gold 3 times, Silver 3 times and Bronze 1 time in the Superpipe competition at the Winter X Games.
Holds the world record in ski flying with 246,5 meters in Vikersund, Norway
“Be yourself – don’t try to be someone else!“
Jörg Walcher’s interview with Johan Remsen Evensen (February 2012)