‘Loitering with intent’ is how Eyre Peninsula Pastor Rob Schubert describes his role as a sports chaplain with Mallee Park Football Club. “But intent to do good, not harm!” he laughs.
Established in 1981, Mallee Park is renown as the nation’s most successful indigenous football club with many players going on to be drafted in the AFL, including Eddie Betts, Byron Pickett, Graham Johncock and Shaun and Peter Burgoyne, to name just a few.
With many club members already having a connection with the Lutheran Church where Pastor Rob is based at Our Saviour’s in Port Lincoln, it seemed a natural fit for him to take on the role of sports chaplain at Mallee Park.
Pastor Rob was recently interviewed by Life FM’s Grass Roots SA program, highlighting the connection that sports chaplains have with their local community and the opportunities that stem from the role.
“It’s about developing relationships on the training track, at games, socialising after a game, just being there with players, the crowd and officials,” Pastor Rob told Life FM.
“You don’t have an agenda as a chaplain, there’s times when you might be a sounding board for someone around the club and you’re just there to listen and hear the inevitable frustrations that happen as part of a club.
“Chaplains are people who can just be there to support; it’s certainly not about bible bashing or proselytising, it’s about being there.”
Pastor Rob is in good company, with hundreds of dedicated chaplains currently serving in Australian sports across the nation. Chaplains assist in many facets of a sporting club, including pastoral care, assisting those in distress, navigating grief and loss and building strong and healthy communities.
As well as lending a supportive ear to anyone who needs it, Pastor Rob also helps out where he can with day-to-day tasks at the club like assisting trainers with equipment, filling water bottles and cleaning up around the change rooms after match day.
“Clubs, especially clubs in the country, really need volunteers and thrive with volunteers,” said Rob.
“Sports chaplains are volunteers who provide an extra level of support for a club, especially when things go wrong – I think it is important to be there in the tough times as well as the good times.”
Pastor Rob said he has been embraced as part of the football community, and his presence has been met with grace and respect.
“I think of it as being the presence of Christ in the community, so for me it’s about the church going out to the community, rather than expecting the community to come to the church – there’s conversations I’ve had with a whole range of people that I don’t think I would have had if I didn’t have my role as chaplain, so for me that’s a pretty important thing.”
With COVID-19 shutting down the 2020 football season for the club, Pastor Rob has been out and about supporting members who are playing in other teams in town. He hopes to be back out with the Mallee Park Woodpeckers in 2021.
“Hopefully for our 40th anniversary we will be back in the green and gold, and I think the boys are looking forward to it.”
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