Louise Davis has taken up the role of Chaplain to Leicester City Women Football Club and has been getting to know the players and club members in recent weeks.
Louise will be a pastorally proactive, spiritually reactive, non-judgmental listening ear for the club, working with everyone from the Under 9s girls to the physiotherapists, while focusing on the first team female players.
“I’m really excited by this new opportunity,” says Louise. “I think sports chaplaincy is a great way to bring God’s love and compassion into an environment that you wouldn’t historically associate with faith.”
Louise is volunteering her time with the club and has committed to attend training once a week and every home game on a Sunday afternoon. She is also available to talk, in confidence, around these fixtures.
“You’ll find me in the clubhouse, with my knitting, ready to listen,” she smiles. “As a chaplain, the football itself isn’t my first priority. Fundamentally, I’m there as someone people can talk to about whatever they want.
“When a player is injured, I’ll be concentrating on how that’s affecting their mental health and emotional wellbeing, rather than when they’ll be back on the field,” says Louise. “When everyone is judging on results, I’m the one person who won’t be.”
When she’s not with the team, Louise’s day job (which pays the bills and gives her time and space to invest in this role) is in projects and communications with Germinate, a national charity helping rural churches and communities to flourish.
“For me, the chaplaincy role is about being present,” explains Louise. “It’s about forging deep relationships and building trust, and proving myself to be a consistent and reliable source of support.
“One of the challenges for me is to be a Christian, with integrity and authenticity, whilst navigating the negative preconceptions that some have about people of faith.”
With a background in church-based youth work, a huge cheerleading community programme and work with Ambassadors Football running soccer schools, supporting coaches and leadership development, Louise has much to draw on for her new position.
She recently completed a Masters degree in Christian Leadership and has a passion for women’s leadership.
“God has given me the gift of being able to listen. I’m not afraid of silence,” she says. “I want to know and understand people and I’d like to think that at this point in my life, I have experience and wisdom I can bring, particularly to younger women.”
Louise has always been passionate about gender issues and is intrigued to play a role in a space that, until recently, has been very male orientated.
“This feels like it could be one of the most significant things, spiritually, that God has asked me to be part of,” she explains.
“This position is really needed. We often ignore that we are fragile as humans. We should be allowing ourselves to accept support from others,” she says. “It’s that step from just saying ‘Hello, I’m fine’, to the leap of allowing ourselves the time to sit down and talk to someone.”
Captain of Leicester City Women, Holly Morgan, believes the support of a chaplain is increasingly necessary in today’s game.
“Football is such a competitive sport, it can be difficult – not just physically, but mentally,” she explains. “When you’re not feeling confident, or in the right head space, that can have a massive impact on the game; so it’s great to have someone to talk to, and listen, to let those thoughts out.”
Holly – who is also a qualified solicitor - is very much involved in the nurturing of young female talent in football, and is a UEFA B Licensed Coach.
She is excited for the sport in the wake of this year’s phenomenal Women’s World Cup and the rise in popularity of women’s football among supporters and players.
“It’s nice to know we’re helping the next generation to grow, so when they get to the professional game, they’re going to have the right facilities and money behind them to compete on the world stage,” she says.
“It’s important to be a positive role model and continue working to make sure there’s more equality around women’s football.”
Leicester City Women are in the FA Women’s Championship and play at Farley Way Stadium (home of Quorn FC) on Sunday afternoons. If you fancy supporting them, you can find fixtures and more information at www.lcwfc.com