Carnoustie Panmure are still one of the few clubs in the East Region to have a Club Chaplain as part of the team behind the scenes. Last week we sat down with Manager. Alan McSkimming and Chaplain, John Toller to have a chat and see how things were going.
We started off by asking Alan how did the idea of Carnoustie getting a Chaplain came about ?
“Mark Johnson, our General Manager and I attended a Regional Club meeting down in Kelty on a cold winter night to discuss proposals for restructuring the leagues. Also as part of the meeting we were introduced to the inspirational Mark Fleming the SFA Chaplain, who talked us through Club Chaplains and the benefits. Immediately this was something that struck home with me and I was keen to find out more about how we could make this work for our club.”
“A number of things Mark said during his presentation really made me think about the responsibility we have to the guys around our club. We are working with guys from 16-40 years old who all have different struggles from money, family, work and girlfriends etc so at some point they need someone to talk to, confide in. Talking about emotions and things that you are struggling with can be tough, because who wants to be judged or feel awkward. For me this why the club chaplain was a position that I felt could really be key to getting guys talking and communication about issues.”
“For me as a club manager if my players are happy, confident then I will get more out of them so the chaplains role has a massive part to the dressing room.”
So how do you both feel it has gone so far ?
John replied “I’ve really enjoyed my first few months at the club, getting to know the squad and coaches and also some of the committee and regular volunteers and fans. My role is essentially about relationships, which take time to build – this has been much easier with the squad as I see them every week! With family commitments I’m not able to get to as many matches as would be ideal – but then none of us have recently, with all the postponements…. But while it’s still early days, I’ve been grateful for and impressed by the welcome I’ve received all round, and that’s a great start for being able to serve and support whoever needs it.”
Alan added “ For me it has been a great success, from the initial meeting with John I knew that he was a great fit for the club. He comes in with us every Monday night and when he is available for home games on a Saturday, he has a very likeable personality so he integrated with the guys almost immediately.
The Manager continued “John has thrown himself into everything at the club, from helping the coaches on the training park to the committee with kit. John also gets stuck in at training too, he is regularly involved with the players in their warm up and running drills as well as helping our goalkeepers out with their work .”
“I think by getting stuck into these tasks has helped him become very comfortable with the players and coaches which has led to him being classed as one of the boys. As the weeks and months have gone on he is forming close bonds with the players and that trust can really help guys that want to chat.”
John agrees he has settled in well, “ The squad have been brilliant at welcoming me in and seem to have got used to me hanging around on a Monday evening! It’s been good to be involved, becoming an honorary member of the goalie’s union, or making an idiot of myself with the ball at the start of training every week…. More widely with the club, getting to the AGM was a good way for me to get more familiar with how things operate and plans for the future, I enjoyed being at the Sportsman’s Dinner back in November as well! Plus, social media has its benefits!”
We then asked John what his thoughts were on the benefits to the club ?
“After a recent friendly I got re-acquainted with an old school friend who played for the opposition. I was telling him about the chaplaincy role, and he commented that it takes a lot for a young male to open up. He’s right, but that applies to most people – not just men, either! All of us, at different times, for different reasons, need someone to open up to. I hope that as I continue to get to know people across the club, I can offer a listening ear and a fresh perspective, whether or not the issues have anything to do with football. Through my regular work I have particular experience in mental health, but also in areas such as safeguarding, and simply in relation to the day to day challenges of work, family, life…. Hopefully in time this will be a benefit both to individuals, not having to carry these things alone, and the club, as a place where people are cared for (and not just by me!) and where football is a really positive aspect of our lives.”
Despite still being in its early stages, the appointment of a Chaplain to the club has without doubt been a success and shows how important the club takes its responsibility to its players and committee. General Manager, Mark Johnson told us “Clubs at all levels have become acutely aware of the importance of looking after their players wellbeing, both physical and psychological and we will continue to be at the forefront of providing the best care for everybody involved with the football club.”