Sports Plus: The best pre-season ever

Date posted: 25/01/18

Sports Plus: The best pre-season ever


Clockwise from top left: Bridget Fulton, Paul Fulton, Dawie Holley and Inonge Siluka

Hundreds of people serve as Team Leaders, Coaches and Support Staff at Sports Plus each summer. But what’s it like to be involved? Back Pages editor Ed Mezzetti got four members from the 2017 cohort together to find out.

Paul and Bridget Fulton, whose Sports Plus involvement dates back to the late 1990s, returned to camp with their children at Repton last summer after several years away. Paul was a rugby coach and Bridget, a former Ireland rugby international, was on the medical team. Inonge Siluka was a Team Leader at Perth and has been a Sports Plus regular for six years, while Dawie Holley, whose debut was in 1999, coached hockey at Belfast 2.

What were your first impressions of Sports Plus?

Inonge: I thought ‘wow, there are people who are serious about sport everywhere. It’s so weird! Why did I not know about this when I was a young person!’

Bridget: I agree, that was my first impression too - although I don’t think they existed when I was that age! It was that realisation that I would have loved it.

Paul: It was amazing to be surrounded by people who love sport, who were happy to be competitive in a good way.

Sports Plus: The best pre-season ever

Dawie (centre) talks tactics 

Fantastic, so how did you get involved?

B: Last year, our eldest hit the age where he could go to Sports Plus and he loves his sport, so we thought this is going to be a dream for him. Then a friend suggested ‘why don’t you all come?’ We said we’ve no idea whether you need anyone like us, but we would love to come and do a supporting role.

P: It was a real blessing for us as a family. As we were on the team, the children were welcomed and they could be a part of it. That was a really big plus.

I: I was playing hockey and netball and getting involved in the Christian Union as a student. Everything was clashing and I was on the verge of thinking ‘actually I won’t play’. Sports Plus was really helpful in getting me stuck into a team at uni and I picked hockey. It was a lightswitch moment - ‘Oh, you can glorify God with your sport and that is your mission field.’

Back Pages Magazine Winter 2018

This article appears in the Winter 2018 issue of Back Pages. To read the rest of the magazine, click here.

It might be hard to pin down, but is there one thing that stands out for you as key about Sports Plus?

P: I loved the focus on excellence in everything – it was really challenging. The second thing was the clear Bible teaching presenting the gospel (That’s two, but we’ll let you get away with it!).

D: I love hearing the gospel so clearly taught in its wholeness. It’s not just a camp for young people to take away, I take away every single year.

B: A highlight for me is the evening meetings. Sitting at the back, watching a couple of hundred young people jumping in their seats, all this kind of banter and fun, and yet through it all worshipping God. You just sit there thinking ‘where else do you get that?’

I: One of the girls on my team said the treatment she received from one of the physios made her notice ‘she’s so different’. Just watching that physio not even realising the impact she was having, by caring, by asking questions - God was using that.

Sports Plus: The best pre-season ever

Inonge with her team at Sports Plus Perth 2017

That’s awesome. Are there any other ways that Sports Plus impacted your own faith?

D: For me, it’s that challenge to find an opportunity to speak of Christ. As you get older, maybe you’re saying ‘do I want those opportunities?’ But Sports Plus gives you a great reminder that I need to speak of Christ.

I: I come away with a confidence that the gospel is for everyone. That it is what my teammates and my friends need. You’re reminded that the gospel is powerful and able to save anyone.

Sports Plus: The best pre-season ever

Bridget (right) with England’s Ann O’Flynn after facing each other in a ‘legends’ match before the 2017 Women’s Rugby World Cup

P: In one of the training sessions, we were reminded about how many sports teams there are in the UK and challenged ‘are we being part of those teams, do we have the urgency of reaching the world of sport for Christ?’

B: I made really great friends in the medical team that I was in, who I am now in touch with after camp. It’s just hugely encouraging that God knows what we need and puts those people in place.

I’m loving this chat. Can you share any more laugh-out-loud moments?

B: Absolutely. The only problem is that when I try to explain them, they’re not generally as funny to the listeners! There was a lot of hilarity - especially about high viz clothing. We were crying with laughter at one point. There were practical jokes we were playing on each other. I miss that in a lot of areas of my life now!

P: Mike Smith, the head rugby coach, always gave me a list of warm-ups I would be showing the young people the next day. We had many an evening of him laughing at me as I tried to figure out what a reverse lunge with twist was!

I: This summer, we tried to write out a rap from Fresh Prince of Bel-Air to perform for our team song in the evening meeting. It was good in practice [laughs]. We were nailing it at the dining table, but when we tried it, we couldn’t quite squeeze it in! It was a bit awkward but quite funny as well.

D: You get sing-offs in the dining room in Belfast and anybody who’s English tries to stand up and sing ‘Swing Low, Sweet Chariot’. Very quickly, everybody else is on their feet singing ‘Shoulder to shoulder, together standing tall’ or some of the Healy songs come out when Northern Ireland beat England at football. It’s quality!

Sports Plus: The best pre-season ever

Paul (background, white and blue t-shirt) coaching rugby with Mike Smith (left) at Sports Plus Repton 2017

Lastly, could you sum up Sports Plus in three words?

P: I would say ‘fun, friendly and focussed’.

B: I went for ‘glimpse of heaven’. I look at Sports Plus and think if that’s a little bit of what heaven is going to be like, then I want to be there.

I: For me, it’s ‘Bible, banter action’.

D: I went with more of a sentence, if I am allowed that? As it happens in the summer, how about ‘best pre-season ever’?


Leaders’ applications for Sports Plus 2018 are now open. For more information, visit

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