Every night we hear another cry for help as sport organisations try to find ways to ‘keep paying’ their professional athletes and those who play a part in the sport endeavour - the coaches, medical, managerial, administration and a whole lot more - bus drivers, car park attendants, ticket sales, security. I could go on and on.
The Covid 19 restrictions affect everyone in sport - Sport is in the top business models for the Australian national economy. Consider - tourism, transport, small business, corporations, banking, finance, manufacturing, sport, social welfare … on and on.
Sport is way up there. At one time it was rightly said that the railways put bread and butter on the table for many across Australia. In the last thirty years the same can be said of sport. The sooner sport can get back onto the playing field (as it were) with Covid 19 restrictions altered - the sooner the better for the national economy let alone the well-being of the nation.
Growing up on sport
Everyone of us have illustrations of sport being part of our development experience in understanding the competitive spirit, winning and losing, the fun of the engagement, the thrill of achievement and the like.
Our family in the 50’s and 60’s were big on table tennis in the garage, the team sports growing up, in my case hockey, the athletic carnivals at school – primary and secondary. In my era all students at high school were expected to try a variety of sports.
This is how children found they were good at something and gave them incentive in that field of endeavour. Think of the Olympic sports like swimming, diving, basketball, hockey, track & field, canoe, sailing, rowing, and the like. Every family had something to discuss over the meal table, their sport endeavours. It gave connectivity to the family members, to the social networks, to the community.
My pathway to the Australian cricket team chaplaincy
My late mother represented in hockey and cricket in the 30’s before WWII. When we relocated from Mackay (Eungella Crediton dairy) to Canberra in 1960 - I was placed in the Canberra Baptist Under 12 Hockey Team.
When I left home for Goulburn to commence my career as a locomotive engineman at 16 I played hockey there, then at 17 transferred to Port Kembla as a railway fireman and joined the St Matthews Hockey Club. This led to representative honours and eventually as a NSW Hockey Association ‘elected board member’.
I was elected as the publicity officer for the Illawarra Hockey Association and wrote the hockey articles for the Illawarra Mercury, Win4 TV where Ron Ross was sports editor who later joined YWAM and involved in sports ministry with me, and Wollongong Radio whose sports editor was a Board Member of the Illawarra Rugby League thru which years later we appointed a chaplain and likewise the Illawarra Hawks NBL.
When Delma and I relocated to Sydney for Baptist Ministry ‘Seminary’ at Morling I became the hockey writer for the Sydney Morning Herald (who later had staff to write hockey) so I moved to News Limited - covering several Olympics, World Cups and Champions Trophies and wrote 5 books on hockey.
After I graduated from Morling as a Baptist Minister I was invited in 1982 to attend a world congress on sport ministry in Hong Kong with endorsements from the Baptists and the InterChurch Trade and Industry Mission (ITIM).
I was serving two days a week as the Industrial Chaplain at Shell Refinery in Sydney – where the Chairman of Shell Australian was Kevan Gosper the IOC Vice President.
Sports chaplaincy development
After returning from Hong Kong the next 18 months was spent developing a theology of sport ministry and meeting with Heads of Churches who allocated a senior clergyman to our fledging ministry’s ‘national board’. I was appointed the Australian cricket team chaplain in 1984, developed a faith finance network to fund our family and ministry (with a monthly newsletter), and travelled the nation negotiating with professional sport appointing sport chaplains.
This was where Mr Basil Sellers AM connected with me through cricket in 1988 at the Centennial Cricket Diner and then the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) athlete respite lodge – ‘Basil Sellers House’ in Moruya, NSW – and much more besides.
After 17 years as the Australian cricket team chaplain, I moved sideways in 2000 - where Life After Cricket developed. Allan Border, Greg Chappell, Kim Hughes, David Book and NSW and VIC Cricket came on board as the editorial team.
Meanwhile after these 18 years (1982-2000), Heads of Churches moved us to our own separate ministry “Well-Being Australia” (WBA) fearing I would be carried out in a box. Volunteerism remans a feature of my ministries. This is where the ‘young writer literacy’ ministry was initiated with five 18-30 year old sport writers, today there are 105 young people writing ‘Comment’.
Our literacy program ‘Press Service International’ was awarded the Australasian Religious Press Association (ARPA) 2019 premier ‘The Gutenberg’ in 2019, a massive endorsement.
Being involved in Olympic Chaplaincy since 1984, in February 2000 Kevin Gosper sent me to Lausanne Switzerland to the IOC to develop with their staff a Religious Services ‘Transfer of Knowledge’ from Olympic host city to the next. In 2009 I was awarded the Olympic Ministry Medal by Carl Lewis the Olympian of the Century, coordinated by the amazing ministry of US Sam and Sharon Mings.
Sport puts bread and butter on many tables - including the Lord’s service. There is a quiet ministry behind the scenes …..
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 25 books, and enjoys writing. Dr Tronson writes a daily article for Christian Today Australia (since 2008) and in November 2016 established Christian Today New Zealand. Dr Mark Tronson’s Press Service International in 2019 was awarded ‘The Gutenberg’ - the Australasian Religious Press Association’s premier award. In September 2020 Summer Moore presented her commission portrait of Dr Mark Tronson holding the Gutenberg plaque. He and David Chang editor of Christian Today together bought the young writer ministry into fruition in 2009. In 2011 Mark established Laguna Quays Respite (Whitsundays) for missionary respite and replicated at Aldinga Beach 2016 (Adelaide) and Greens Beach Bass Straight (TAS). His ministry is honoured all these years by Christian philanthropist Mr Basil Sellers AM. He is married to Delma (44 years), with four adult married children and grand-children.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html