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/ 3 September 2020

‘Thank you Sir’

Tim Richards is Chaplain at Chelsea Academy, and shares how he has connected with pupils through sport. . For more information about sports ministry please visit this page.

The thank you’s echoed around the sports hall.

It was the end of my first basketball training session; it was 8.30am on a Friday morning and the appreciation from the students was incredible.

I had known most of the students for a few years and had seen them at break time and in lessons. But this appreciation for something so simple as a one hour basketball session took me as a shock.

I started this session in response to a request from a year 11 boy who I mentor. He had spoken to me about his love for basketball training many times. He told me that training was on a Thursday evening but it had been cancelled multiple times; first for a lack of a coach and then due to the sports hall being used for parents consultation evenings.

The frustration grew week by week and this young man told me that a number of students were missing out on the sport they love. I realised that I could probably run a very basic but effective solution to this problem; a training session before school on a Friday.

Yes, it means I now have to get up at 5am on a Friday and get the 6.06am train to travel from Surrey to London in time for 7.15am. But it means I can start a session at 7.30am and finish it by 8.30am ready in time for the start of the school. Being met with twenty eager students each week makes it all worth it!

My role as Chaplain in the Academy is to support the students pastorally and ensure that the Christian ethos is well established in every aspect of school life. You may be thinking what I am doing running a basketball club then! The reason is that now when I pass those students in the corridors or speak to them in class, they now look me in the eye with a degree of respect which wasn’t apparent before.

This session has furthered my relationships with students from year 7 to year 11; I’ve learnt more names of students and they have realised that God and Sport are compatible! I share the theme of the week with students in a short reflection before the training begins. This is discussed and I end this reflection with a prayer. The students are from religious and non religious backgrounds, there are Christians, Muslims and Atheists each week. They all bow their heads respectfully as we put our hands in the middle and my hope is that even for a moment they are able to have some calm and quiet in a very busy city.

My hope for this session is that it can provide one hour of joy for these students and they clearly do enjoy it. I’m no basketball expert but that doesn’t matter; it is about facilitating joy through simple activities and games. Responding to young people’s love of sport is one simple way that we can build relationships, enable joy and even encourage a moment of prayer…

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