Bracing the Shock

Meet the Chaplains who support the players behind-the-scenes

By Danielle Parker

Speed, agility and skill can carry an athlete through their career, but coupled with integrity, encouragement and faith, success is inevitable. The chaplains of the Tulsa Shock are well aware of this, and it is through their leadership and guidance that these pro basketball players strengthen their ability, as well as their character. Madeline Manning-Mims, Misti Cussen and Darlean Calip have been a part of the Tulsa Shock since its formation in April.

Manning-Mims is no stranger to the arena of chaplaincy. As the founder and resident of the United States Council for Sports Chaplaincy, the Olympic track gold medalist has served as a chaplain for the last six Olympiads. “This is part of my ministry,” Manning-Mims said. “It really is a passion of mine.”

A Sapulpa High School basketball head coach, Calip has been coaching for 19 years. Her experience as a chaplain comes from her time invested in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and what she has learned from those around her. “In my job, I speak on the high school and college level,” she said. “God has granted to me wisdom throughout the years. I have learned a lot; my pastor who regularly speaks to the girls on my team, so I had an idea of how to approach this position.”

Cussen has been with the Oral Roberts University women’s basketball coaching staff for 15 years. Coming to the Shock, she said, aside from coaching, there is not much difference between what she does for her ORU team. "These ladies deal with a whole different set of issues than they did in college,” Cussen said. “And I know the stresses they face. I, too, struggled with finding a balance between my career and family.”

With the team transitioning from Detroit, and many of the players coming from all across the country, chaplains give emotional and spiritual support that is often neglected amidst busy and demanding schedules. Their job description includes leading a chapel service before each home game, as well as to guide, encourage and advise in any way they can. “Our responsibility is to provide pastoral care to the team and be sure their spiritual needs are taken care of,” Manning-Mims said.” Seeing the girls after games and practices, counseling, offering encouragement, just being there for them – that is what we are here for.”The benefits package of a WNBA chaplain is not at all appealing - it is a 24/7 on-call position. But each chaplain agrees the rewards are priceless. “It is a blessing in many ways to provide spiritual encouragement to the ladies on the team, and I am extremely blessed from it as well,” Calip said. “I look forward to it and am glad to be a part of it.”

Manning-Mims, Cussen and Calip can all be found sitting in on practice, behind the bench during the game, and in the locker room when it’s all over. Why? Because they are not just the chaplains of the Tulsa Shock; they are a key element of the Tulsa Shock itself. “I look at them as my team,” Madeline said. “Whatever happens to them happens to me. We are an integral part of the team. I don’t come in thinking I’m doing them a favor. I see it as an honor to serve them.” Mind, body, soul – The Tulsa Shock is covered. “They have a great platform and unbelievable position as role models,” Cussen said. “As moms, wives, as athletes, it is important to do all things well and have support as you strive to attain that.”