How did you become a team chaplain to the Houston Rockets?

Ikki Soma

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If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones. – Luke 16:10

When I was playing rugby in college, a few of my Christian teammates and I started a study through the Gospel of John for our non-Christian teammates. We loved our teammates and hoped they would enter into a relationship with Jesus Christ. Likewise, a few of my track and field teammates and I would share our faith with our non-Christian teammates.

After graduating from college, I worked for a year as a coach at a Christian high school. I continued my ministry to athletes there.

When I got to seminary, I did my first team chapel. A good friend of mine coached cheerleaders and sponsored the Fellowship of Christian Athletes at a junior high school. She asked me to come speak at one of her FCA huddles. So one morning at 6:45am, I showed up in the gym and attempted to teach the Bible to about a dozen, half-awake, junior high athletes. At the end, we clasped hands, formed a circle, and prayed.

After that initial FCA huddle, more coaches invited me to speak at their pregame chapels and FCA huddles.

In 2010, while I was serving as college and young adults pastor at a church in San Antonio, Neal Neathery and his family were a part of our church. Our kids were about the same ages, and we quickly became friends. About that time, the University of Texas at San Antonio started a football program, and Neal was named the first defensive coordinator. I soon accepted his invitation to become the first team chaplain for UTSA football.

From 2010 to 2016, I continued as one of the team chaplains for UTSA football, even after I moved to Houston. In early 2016, Neal moved to Eastern Michigan University and Larry Coker resigned as head football coach for UTSA. With those changes, I was no longer one of the team chaplains. Shortly before the 2016 college football season, I internally debated about reaching out to the new UTSA football coach to introduce myself, but the Holy Spirit gave me a gentle “no.”

That same week, I met with a pastor friend of mine. As we wrapped our lunch, his look turned very serious. “I need to ask you a serious question,” he said. “I’ve been praying for two years about adding to our team of chaplains for the Houston Rockets and every time I’ve prayed, God keeps putting your name on my heart. Would you pray about joining our team?” I texted my wife and daughters, as well as several of my accountability partners. As one door of ministry closed, God opened another door! I accepted the offer a few days later.