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Brunel Sports: mission-field or minefield?
Have you ever wondered weather being a Christian and playing sports at University can mix? Today, two sport students are on hand to chat through their experiences of being a Christian and playing sports at University.
Sports clubs are often associated with heavy drinking and general boisterousness, with some saying, making it very difficult for a Christian to survive and play sports. Are these rumours true? If they are what can we do to help us navigate these waters? Well today you are in luck as we have Callum (Economics and accounting) and Lewis (Sports science) on hand to chat through their experiences of being a Christian and playing sports at University.
1.Which sports club are you in?
I’m Callum. I play squash at Brunel and I’m the social secretary on the club’s committee.
My name is Lewis and I am part of the Brunel Rugby League team. I have started playing prop this year, which will be a challenge but I look forward to it!
2.What benefits are there to joining a sports club at university?
Callum: I’ve met some great friends by joining Squash. So that sticks out as a major benefit - meeting people and getting some non-Christian friends you can be a witness to rather than just being caught in a ‘Christian bubble’. Also there is the obvious benefit is of course exercising and playing the sport you love!
There’s also the opportunity to get involved with being on the committee as well. This is a great way to bring influence into how the club is run and experience working with other people which looks good on your CV. Employers are looking for things like that in a competitive market.
3.Would you say joining a sports club is a significant risk to growing your relationship with God?
Lewis:When joining a sports club you do open yourself up to a whole load of challenges with your faith. However a better way of looking at it is that you also open yourself up to a whole load of opportunities to grow your relationship with God further. It will inevitably take you out of your comfort zone but in doing so allows you to grow in your confidence and will strengthen your faith in God. It will also open up the possibility of an opportunity to witness to your teammates, some of which may not meet another Christian while at University.
4.What challenges do being part of a sports club present as a Christian?
Callum: One of the main challenges for me was how to best show these people my faith in a godly yet approachable way. Though that is not much different from any other group of people that you would hangout with I guess.
The main places people perceive who you are, is when you’re playing your sport and in the socials, especially in those first few weeks. They’re looking at how much you drink, how much ‘fun’ you are and generally just sussing out what sort of person you are. It’s easy to set a goal before you go to socials of drinking responsibly (or even not drinking at all) but it can be tough when you’re actually there. That is why it is good to have other Christian mates around you who can encourage you and you can be accountable to. Things like not swearing, which may not seem like a big deal really to you, also get notice.
Also, there is how you conduct yourself on the pitch. We obviously want to win, but I want to do it in a way that honours, and does not degrade, the opposition. This can be a big challenge with all the ‘banter’ and competitive nature of sports. I also want to be someone who encourages my teammates and cheers them on.
I’ve also come across a few atheists whom have wanted to debate and air their opinions at what I believe. So the challenge there is, how do I answer the questions in a loving but convicting way? Or even, how do I respond to questions I don’t know the answer to?
5.How do you approach these challenges to your faith?
Lewis: The two main challenges you face within a sports team are peer pressure and temptation. These two challenges can unfortunately be very powerful and it important to not underestimate them. As Callum pointed out above, most sports clubs will hold regular socials and the peer pressure and temptation to drink can be quite strong at times.
Rugby socials often consist of everyone smashing away as many drinks as they can at pre-drinks while staying just sober enough to be let into the club by the bouncers. In these times it’s important for me to remember that I am an independent person and that I cannot be forced by anyone into doing anything I don’t feel is right.
On the first social you must be careful not to do anything you don’t want to. As if you do end up doing something bad to impress your team, they will come to expect it from you at every social and then it becomes much harder to stop being influenced. That being said, if you mess up remember there is always grace, God will forgive you and will help stand strong the next time.
As Callum mentioned, it is good to have other Christians around support and encourage you. Join a church, and then try and hook up with other Christians on campus, particularly those that play sports. Brunel has a group on campus called Christians in Sports, it’s a great opportunity to spend time with others Christians playing sports at University (from athletics to basketball), share your lives with each other other and pray for one another.
6.What practical steps can you take in order to have a Christ-like influence on your club?
Callum: I think it’s the small things that make a difference.
Playing the game in good spirit and encouraging others goes a long way. Being the first to support something no one wants to do, offering your chair to someone, turning up on time, asking if someone’s alright if they seem down. These things may seem insignificant to us, but we just don’t how much it impacts others!
If you join a sports club’s committee you also get to have a say on some of the decisions the club makes and how it is run.
Oh yeah and praying for your club, almost forgot the most important thing there!
7.All in all, would you recommend joining a sports club at Brunel?
Callum: So I would say yes, but some clubs are more challenging than others; I would rather do the Chess club initiation than Rugby Union for example! And yes chess is a sport.
At first I wanted to join Football, but reflecting on myself I thought ‘Is this worth the risk?’ In the end I decided against it and joined the squash club. Probably one of my best decisions so far at Uni! But other people would be able to handle the extra pressures that go with those clubs better than me. So I would say, be objective and honest with yourself in your decision, is it worth risking what you stand for?
Unless it’s Squash club then absolutely yes go for it!
Lewis: If you like a particular sport or activity, or just want to try one out at Brunel, then I would strongly recommend going for it and taking part! While there are fears and uncertainties around sports clubs you should not be held back by them. Joining them is a great opportunity to make friends, play sports and step out of your comfort zone by sharing your faith and growing closer to God.