Faith Played Out: Competition
I heard about Izzy long before I met her, as word spread about her incredible sporting talents! This is why I'm so excited to share her post about how she combines her faith with her tennis, and commits so highly to both. A post about staying fiercely competitive, but honouring Jesus in everything. L x
Ask anyone who knows me what my favourite things in life are and if they don’t reply with Yorkshire Tea, then tennis will soon follow. I’ve played tennis since I was four years old and tennis has very much been my identity throughout my life so far. My most common phrase in school was definitely ‘sorry I can’t, I have tennis’.
I became a Christian late in my school life. Friday nights became Christian Forum quiet time and weekends were spent doing my best to beat the person on the opposite side of the net. My bedroom, once filled with quotes of ‘sweat + sacrifice = success’ was now being shared with Bible verses such as ‘humility, gentleness, patience, love. Ephesians 4:2’. The faith part of my life was abounding with grace and forgiveness - whilst on the tennis court I had been taught to be ruthless and a fighter.
For most match days my Christian identity was left in the car park: me, the fiery athlete, with the odd John McEnroe tantrum, was struggling to bring any kind of peace to the tennis court.
What I have learnt about being a Christian sportswoman is that sport is an awesome arena to share your faith and create bonds with teammates in order for them to explore Christianity. As captain of my university team and next year’s club President I have the chance to reach so many students and share the good news of Jesus. This brings with it accountability, which is great to help me overcome my challenges of acting like a child of God, both on and off the sports field.
I’m so excited by the presence of God in the tennis club so far. Church followed by Sunday brunch was indeed a team bonding event last year and seeing my teammates’ faith journey begin is a special experience. So if you as a sportswoman are trying to figure out, like me, how best to be a Christian athlete then start with talking to your teammates about Jesus. It can be a daunting prospect but there is no mutual respect quite like that of teammates, so go for it. It really is amazing how God’s word can spread amongst a team. The odd worship song recommendation never goes a miss!
Through playing tennis I have been lucky to have been given so many opportunities. Sport scholarships to schools and universities, travel to different countries to play internationally, and some of my strongest friendships. As my faith has grown I have learnt to give all the glory to God and to be so thankful for the talent He has given me. It’s okay to be super-competitive and to want to win, as long as you are praising Him who has given you these opportunities.
I can’t say that since becoming a Christian I am no longer that fiery athlete and I can’t say I don’t still have the odd angry moment on the court - I’m working on it! I can now say, however, that my identity is not in whether I have won or lost. Jesus will love me whether I am a champion or a loser.
Yes, I still cry in the locker rooms after a tough loss, but that’s because I’m passionate about my sport and I’m passionate about using the incredible gift of talent that God has given me.
Now I see my faith and sport as so compatible – a training run with a Hillsong playlist or a Bible verse in my tennis bag to read at changeovers. To me one of my greatest gifts from God is my tennis talent, and I hope that for the rest of my tennis playing days I can be a shining light of Jesus’ love.
Play sport, enjoy God’s gift of sporting talent, and keep the faith.
I'm Izzy, a final year student at Durham University studying Natural Sciences with Joint Honours in Biology and Sport. I'm usually found on the tennis court or sat in lectures in DULTC stash.