As featured on the NY Times

Angy King

Reading Women

Every Monday and Thursday evening, for six months, Angy King took a seat in the trailer that serves as the changing room for the Reading women’s team. The players would start to arrive 45 minutes or so before training. King would watch, listen, show an interest. “Starting to build relationships is key,” she said.

She knew, at least, that the players wanted her there. A layperson — rather than an ordained minister — King had been invited by the team manager one evening to speak with the squad. The players would then “decide if they wanted a chaplain,” she said.

After training, several of the team’s senior players sought her out and told her the squad was unanimous. She was more than welcome.

King knew she needed time — and a light touch — before the players might be prepared to share their concerns and their anxieties with her, but she believed even in those quiet first few months of sitting and listening, she could still have an effect.

“I’ve read studies that suggest the presence of a chaplain can make a difference without saying anything,” she said. “Just being aware that someone is there helps.”

Three years on, those relationships have been established. Over coffee, the players and King would talk about the sorts of things the manager, perhaps, does not have time for: whether they should stay in college, for instance, or problems at home.

King now serves as the chaplain to Reading’s development teams, spending much of her time with the parents of children hoping to make a career in soccer. In her experience, the women’s game can be considered more supportive than the men’s.

“It’s a generalization, but maybe men are less inclined to talk,” she said. “The women in the team are really good at sharing with one another. They support each other.”