Stuart Weir has been my good friend for nearly 30 years; from when he worked for Christians in Sport in the 1980s to now in his current role as Executive Director of Verite Sport. His insights into Christianity and sport are always astute and accessible.
Here's a short article he recently penned on God, friendship and sport:
The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him” (Genesis 2:18). God lives in relationship. When he created people he knew that we would work better in relationship with others, that it was not good for us to be alone. Jesus said to his disciples, “I no longer call you servants, because servants do not know their master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you” (John 15:15).
Ask a retired sportsperson what they miss most about their playing days and the answer is likely to be the banter, the camaraderie. Being part of a team over a period of years, sharing the successes and disappointments creates a bond between people like very little else. You are bound so tightly together because of the immediacy of victory and defeat. You learn very quickly to be blunt with each other because competition demands it. You learn to critique and to praise each other much more often and at a deeper level than in everyday life.
The sense of team spirit among the players is a unique experience. For many people the closest, longest lasting friendships of their lives started on the sports field. Those who play team sport understand this but those who do an individual sport, may feel the same about their training group. I recently asked an elite athlete how well she knew another athlete. She replied that they ran 5-10 miles together most days. I guess they know each other quite well!
Drew Hyland in an article, Competition and Friendship, states that we are often “at our most competitive while playing against a close friend” and that "this greater intensity enhances rather than diminishes the positive strength of the relationship." I am sure he is right.
Friendship is a great gift from God and also a great opportunity to give input – the input of encouragement or challenge to another person.