As published on the Derby County Women FC website. Original link:

Club Chaplain - Sarah Crathrone

Next week will have seen a whole year since the country was first plunged into a National Lockdown and though the 2020/21 season got underway, earlier this week saw the news that the 2020/21 FA National League season was curtailed for a second successive season.

For Sarah Crathorne, the Derby County Women Club Chaplain, this year has seen her normal role change due to the Covid19 pandemic and a greater focus come to the fore on the wellbeing of the club’s members, ensuring that it is embedded into the club’s ethos.

Sarah said “Before Covid I was going to first team training once a week, visiting one academy session each week and going to first team home matches. Since March it’s been very different ​with the stop/start of grassroots football and the need to not cross social bubbles. When the first team have been allowed to train and rules have allowed, I have been down to their training once a week and timing this to coincide with when U20s are also at Moor Farm. I also went to the few home games we were allowed to have spectators at.

“While we can’t see each other in person the players can still contact me, and I contact some of them from time to see how they are doing. I’m also part of a working group looking at mental health and wellbeing across the club and how we can ensure this is embedded into the club’s ethos.

“​Because of Covid it feels like it’s still quite early days in my work with the club. My role will work best when I’ve ​had the opportunity to buil​d good relationships with the players. ​It’s been ​difficult getting established and investing in getting to know people with the stop start nature of the last 18 months.

“That being said the club have made me real welcome. It’s great that they put so much emphasis on wellbeing and care for the players on and off the pitch. I love the opportunities I have to spend time with the team before they start training when we can just chat about anything and everything. Sadly, this has been quite restricted as even when I can get to training, we still have to abide by all the social distancing rules etc.”

Sarah is part of Sports Chaplaincy UK, an organisation that was set up to provide pastoral care in different sporting environments, to help link up clubs with prospective chaplains and to provide ongoing support and accountability for the chaplains. ​While they are a Christian organisation their motto is to be pastorally proactive and spiritually reactive. Once a chaplain has been invited to be part of the club it is up to the club and chaplain to work out how they want the role to look.

“Chaplains have the freedom to work with their club to meet their needs and every chaplain brings their own skills and experiences to the role. Whilst Chaplains come from a faith background they are there for everyone of all faiths and none. ​This is ever more important with mental health and its provision, not just in sport but within society, being a growing issue that needs addressing.

Sarah hopes that as we understand more about mental wellbeing and reduce the stigma attached to it​, talking about mental health will be just as easy as talking about a physical injury ​and as we learn to relax and talk more openly & freely people will get the support they need at a much earlier point. She commented that “Often things feel much worse than they maybe are because we think we are the only one feeling like that. As we break down these barriers and share experiences, we can help each other.

​Sarah values the importance of training and being equipping ourselves to help others. She shared that immediately before ​she started with DCFCW she went on a 10-week mental health awareness course that ​her church was running because she wanted to broaden her understanding and be better placed to help others. “I work in a school and mental health awareness is high on the agenda in education and so I take advantage of any training I can access through that. It’s also reassuring to know that if I come up with a situation when I’m not sure how to help I can draw on the experience of the other sports chaplains or the team at church for advice. It’s never about me having all the answers but being a listening ear, where necessary signposting them to the right help and supporting them to access this.”

As we look to increase the awareness of mental health both in sport and across the wider society, Sarah is proud of the steps taken so far both at the club and in ​the wider football ​world and hopes that there comes a point when the stigma ​is a thing of the past.

“Sports Chaplains have been active in the men’s game for over 40 years and currently 80 out of the 92 teams in the Premiership and EFL have chaplains. However, the first women’s chaplain was only appointed about 7 years ago and there are currently ​only 14 women’s clubs with chaplains.

“DCFCW should be proud of themselves for spotting this opportunity and I think it reflects their commitment to their players welfare that they decided to appoint a chaplain. I feel very privileged to be the first chaplain at DCFCW and one of the first to be appointed nationally.

“I think it’s important that we get to a point where talking about mental health is in no way taboo and we chat about it in the same way we’d talk about a broken arm but being a chaplain isn’t all about mental health. Sometimes the support needed is to do with practical issues like a career choice or relocation or maybe even planning a wedding. I’m just as available to chat about the more mundane things of life as it’s challenges.

“I’d like to build much closer relationships with the players and ​other individuals​within the club and ​them feel confident that they can talk to me about anything – I’m pretty un-shockable but not sure they’ve had opportunity to learn that yet!”

Please find Information on both Sports Chaplaincy UK and Mind on how you can help end the stigma around mental health. ​

Sarah can be contacted on should you need support across any issues.