Sean Mapleback’s a young bloke. He’s also mad on sport — especially footy. This 30-year-old pastor with The Salvation Army in Mornington was born and raised in the northern suburbs and moved down to Mornington six years ago, and he has been working with the Mornington Football and Netball Club for about four years looking out for what’s inside a player. Inside their heads. He gets the value of looking into what’s going on behind the goal posts and beneath the football jumpers. In the locker rooms and beyond the ground when the crowds have gone and a player is left to his or her own devices.
For any of us who have picked up a newspaper or switched on the television over the past decade, you’d have to be pretty oblivious not to realise that mental health in sport — especially footy — has been a top discussion point. Sean explains: “I love the deep connection with the community this role brings. I am representing the church, but my role is not to Bible-bash but rather to provide care and support. I’m just a normal guy whose role is to be present for any care. To be an adviser. I’m at the club on Thursday nights during training and I attend game day to be present, but primarily to provide the chance to connect and build relationships with people.”
Sean is not a trained counsellor, but he has been trained in pastoral counselling with Sports Chaplaincy Australia. He continues: “I just happen to be a pastor who loves footy and believes in helping young people who might feel isolated. There’s lots of sporting clubs looking for pastoral care these days because they realise how important it is. I think there’s around 10 clubs on the Mornington Peninsula currently looking for chaplains. I’ve also been working on Saturday nights doing the Main St Salvos program creating a safe zone from 11pm until 3am for young adults who might need help. We offer free Chuppa Chups, water, thongs and phone charge. The footy club and other local businesses in the community contributed to help buy a van with the support of Mercedes Benz Mornington, and it’s out and about every Saturday night throughout summer.”
Sean loves the deep connection his role as adviser and mate at the Mornington Football and Netball Club brings. As a great believer in the ‘it’s never too late to change your story’ adage, he says you can never underestimate what taking the time to have a coffee with someone can do — but he is a firm believer in referring any player on to professional healthcare providers. “Just because you’ve had one bad chapter doesn’t mean that your story is over.”
One mark at a time.