Winter is upon us, and as I write this message we have our fire alight and the glow is nearly enough to make me feel warm. However as I strolled around our garden today, I was amazed that our roses are still shooting and we were able to pick some that are my favourites because of their scent and colour.

Compared with many places on our earth, how blessed are we to live in this Great South Land of the Holy Spirit? I think the media cycle can cloud this reality with people sensing doom and gloom, and a lack of trust and hope.

In this weekend’s readings we have God sending the prophet Ezekiel to the rebellious, defiant and obstinate Israelites (Ezekiel 2:2-5). I wonder who among us is listening to the Spirit and being sent?

Next weekend we have our first Diocesan Pastoral Council (DPC) meeting ‘out in the field’. Of the five DPC meetings held each year, we will be holding three in different locations around the diocese. The first one is to be held at Glendale in the Sugarloaf Parish including people from Morisset, Toronto, Booragul, Boolaroo/Warners Bay and Wallsend/Shortland Parishes. However, anyone from across the diocese is welcome to attend to participate in the conversations, which will hopefully give Bishop Bill and the members of the DPC a snapshot of what life is like in the Macquarie and Western Regions of our diocese. I wonder if we will have the feeling of being rejected and cast out, as Jesus did in the gospel from the weekend (Mark 6:1-6). The Word of God is often proclaimed by those whom the world considers insignificant. Jesus came from lowly Nazareth and was a carpenter. Bishop Bill and the members of the DPC will need to listen attentively because there may be a prophet in the midst of those who gather!

You may recall a statement made by Mark Scott, the managing director of the ABC, in the last couple of weeks. He was being challenged as to whose team he was on and to that challenge, he declared the ABC was on Australia’s side. “In any team, you can be playing on the same side, but often you will be playing in a different position, with a different role and responsibility,” he said. “You’re on the same side, but with a different job to do. The ABC is clearly Australian; it’s on the side of Australia.”

I liked the image he portrays. I contemplated its significance for us, as God’s people in the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle, living in parishes and participating in the life of the church. I wondered if those involved in our church are on the same team. And if they are on the same team are they aware of the positions they play or are there too many vying for the same position. How many are trying to be the captain? Are there players who do not have the right skills to play in particular positions? Who is our coach?

So what might the definition of a team, a captain and a coach be? Webster’s dictionary gives the following simple explanations:

Team – a group of people participating in a sport together.

Captain – the leader of a team, as in sports.

Coach – a person who trains an athlete or a team of athletes.

What a great image - of a coach's role as the task of the Bishop, and the captain as the person charged with the responsibility of a parish – either a parish priest, a pastoral co-ordinator or a parish leadership team.

So I googled the ‘role of a coach’, and found the following:

The Role of the Sports Coach

The role of the coach is not just coaching! - Sports coaches assist athletes in developing to their full potential. They are responsible for training athletes in a sport by analysing their performances, instructing in relevant skills and by providing encouragement. But you are also responsible for the guidance of the athlete in life and their chosen sport.

Consequently, the role of the coach will be many and varied, from instructor, assessor, friend, mentor, facilitator, chauffeur, demonstrator, adviser, supporter, fact finder, motivator, counsellor, organizer, planner and the Fountain of all Knowledge.

In relation to sports, the role of the coach is to create the right conditions for learning to happen and to find ways of motivating the athletes. Most athletes are highly motivated and therefore the task is to maintain that motivation and to generate excitement and enthusiasm.

The coach will need to be able to: assist athletes to prepare training programs, communicate effectively with athletes, assist athletes to develop new skills, use evaluation tests to monitor training progress and predict performance.

Therefore, you can see that it is a very difficult task and requires a very special person.


Interestingly, in Saturday's Sydney Morning Herald (4 July) there was an article written by Brad Walker about Laurie Daley titled "Jersey boy: Why Daley fought to put the pride back into NSW" and the caption read, "You want the people of NSW to connect with the team because we are representing them, so we want them to be proud of us." This week is the play-off for State of Origin and NSW would love to win on the back of its triumph of last year.

In the article Daley speaks of wishing to engage with the kids to ensure that NSW was a team they could be proud to follow. Walker writes, “What he wanted to ensure was that the players performed on and off the field to a standard which would make NSW fans proud to support them regardless of the result.” Daley states, "You want the people of NSW to connect with the team because we are representing them, so we want them to be proud of us. When you pull on the Blues jersey you have got to understand that there are some things that you have to do that are non-negotiable. Our guys are understanding that now, which is so pleasing. It's been enjoyable to see this group of guys grow and come together, work hard for one another and be respected. They are guys who want to play well on the field but they want to do their best off the field as well and I think that is important. We just keep re-enforcing to the guys that we are playing for everyone and we want people to be proud, and to get behind the team. We haven't really achieved anything yet, but it does feel like there is growing support."

Laurie Daley, as coach of the NSW Blues, is instilling in the players a desire to work hard as a team for the whole of NSW, not just for themselves. It is about earning respect and being proud and engendering pride in your followers.

We have also seen the outpouring of grief for the coach of the Adelaide Crows, Phil Walsh; a highly respected and hard-working man who brought the best out of his players. For me what is remarkable about these two men and of other coaches is that they love what they do and they want the best for their players and teams. They dedicate time, energy and passion for the good of all, players and club members.

When you google ‘captain’ a number of sites appear and so for this week’s message I thought I would use the following explanation by Larry Lauer, PhD and Kevin Blue, Michigan State University

They refer to the three Cs which captains embody when leading a team: Caring, Courageous and Consistent.

Being named a team captain is quite the honour. The position of captain is given to those athletes whom the rest of the team respect and trust to lead the team in the right direction. However, with this great honour also comes great responsibility. A captain must be accountable after a bad performance or practice. Captains are expected to perform in the clutch and lead the team to victory. It is also expected that captains will maintain control in the most pressurised situations and be the model of excellence for their teammates. Wow, coaches and athletes expect a lot of captains don’t they? Is it really worth it to be a captain?

In our opinion, being a captain is one of the greatest honours an athlete can receive. Yet, many athletes take this honour for granted and do not understand the significance of their responsibilities as captain. In fact, in some situations captains may be selected because they are popular amongst their peers rather than being a suitable candidate for the captaincy. Athletes should take the captain’s role very seriously and put some thought on what it means to be an effective captain. In our opinion a good captain should embody the 3 Cs:

Caring, Courageous, and Consistent


Great captains have an undeniable passion for the game, for competing, and for their teammates. They put the success of the team ahead of their own needs and are truly concerned with the well-being of all team members. As a caring captain, you should treat all teammates with respect and recognize the contributions made by all team members. If you have a problem with a teammate, you should approach that teammate in private and in a positive way to address the situation and find a solution. The captain should be the one to stop rumour spreading and gossiping. These kinds of behaviours destroy team chemistry.


Captains are willing to step up. As a courageous captain, you must “walk the talk” and you cannot be afraid to compete in the worst of situations. Courageous captains set the example for the rest of the team. Your actions must embody the core values of the team, especially during times of adversity. Be a model of courage and dedication to your teammates by setting lofty goals and working hard to reach them. Finally, as a courageous captain you must show that you trust your teammates and coaches, and are also willing to hold teammates accountable to working hard and being prepared.


Effective captains need to be the model of consistency. To be a consistent captain you need to hold yourself to a standard of giving 100% effort in every practice and game. You cannot cut corners and earn the respect from teammates and coaches that is necessary to lead the team effectively. Consistent captains also have an authentic style of communicating. Some lead by their actions, while others are more vocal. Importantly, to be a consistent captain you must remain true to your own style of communication and not try to be someone else.

If you successfully accomplish these three Cs you will earn a fourth C – credibility. Nothing is more important in leading your team into competition than being seen as an authentic, credible leader.


So when we go out to Glendale next weekend, I hope to experience the qualities described above in our coach and in our captains. But I also hope that there will be only one team present, and willing to play the same game on the same side. We are all in this together and we need prophetic leaders to guide us.

I hope some of you come along and play the game with me. Don’t be a spectator from the sidelines, or worse still, from your couch!

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Teresa Brierley Image
Teresa Brierley

Teresa Brierley is Director Pastoral Ministries of the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.

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