It might be hard pressed to find an Australian sports fan who has not heard of Jarryd Hayne and the San Francisco 49ers - I can say this with some certainly as even my wife spoke of this last week.
If you have not heard - the San Francisco 49ers defeated the Minnesota Vikings 20-3 last Tuesday (Aust time). The game was played for almost three hours – mind you that is not all playing time, take away the time for television adverts and you have a playing time of not much more than a Super 16 Rugby or NRL fixture.
According to a News.com article posted after that football match, a 30 second advert costs more than $400,000. American Football is not short of a quid!
Moreover Jarryd Hayne in his first 2015-16 competition match with the 49ers made one silly mistake and did reasonably well in his other 'game touches'. Moreover his team won.
American Football – Gridiron was as popular in the 1980's as it is today – the great stars and champions were all over the news space as they are today and wherever they went there was media pandemonium. In 1982 I was invited to Hong Kong as one of nine Australians for the 2nd World Congress of Sports Mission where I met numbers of these American football superstars.
My invitation came as a result of writing hockey for The Australian newspaper, I was both a hockey player and triple jumper with titles and had already written two books on hockey, and an ordained Baptist minister.
Being well prepared I was given the imprimatur by both NSW Baptists and the InterChurch Trade and Industry Mission (ITIM) to bring back a report as Sport was an Australian major industry and I was serving two days a week as an ITIM industrial chaplain at Shell Australia in Sydney.
Upon my return senior ITIM senior persons and I visited Heads of Churches to adopt the concept of a Sports and Leisure Ministry. The very first Australian professional sport to adopt chaplaincy was the Australian Cricket Board in 1984 and I was that chaplain. This began the road of introducing sport chaplaincy across the board of Australian professional sport.
I criss crossed the nation meeting face to face with professional sport organisations and establishing the opportunity for a local chaplain to serve their sporting community – a pastor to everyone – professional sportsperson – families – staff – the executive – board members – an all encompassing ministry.
To come on board was State Cricket, AFL, NRL, Soccer, Rugby, Baseball, Basketball, Rodeo, Yachting, Golf, Motor Racing, Yachting, the AIS (housed the Olympic sports).... so the ministry grew and developed. My wife Delma and I initiated this as faith financed missionaries in this endeavour.
I led this ministry from its foundation 1982 to 2000 when I moved-on to establish Well-Being Australia with a wonderful clean bill of ministry health from Heads of Churches after 18 years of dedicated ministry with 150 sport chaplains across Australia's professional sporting community.
1984 and 86 US Study Tours
As Mr Kevan Gosper AM was the Chairman of Shell Australia he invited me to serve as an Olympic chaplain at the 1984 LA Olympics. I co-ordinated this role by also writing Olympic hockey for The Australian. After the Olympics I undertook a US Sport Ministry Study Tour which included LA and Dallas where connections existed. In 1986 I made my second US Study Tour and 1987, 89, 91 US professional athlete conferences with Pro Athletes Outreach (POA).
I met the chaplains of many major professional sporting organisations and invited into their 'inner chambers' including the Cleveland Browns, Dallas Cowboys, LA teams (Football and Baseball) ..... attended several conferences with these chaplains and athletes and worked through a lot of very positive outcomes – I was looking at what might work well in an Australian context.
These were heady years, full of challenge, opening new agendas for ministry and it has been acknowledged that this opened the philosophical door to many other highly specialised ministries across the Australian community. The Lord blessed mightily.
I can also say thankyou to so many American Football contacts. One such story – I was introducing chaplaincy in 1985 to the (late) Jack Gibson coach of Cronulla Sutherland NRL team. As I gave my spreel including American Football chaplaincy, Jack Gibson stopped me, and asked one question: Who is the coach of the Cleveland Browns? I answered 'Sam Ritinglano' – Jack said: "Send me your chaplain!".
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He mentors young writers and has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html