Athlete, Respect Your Opponent


Athlete, Respect Your Opponent

Jonathan Van Horn

Philippians 2:3 (ESV)

Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.

As the lyrics go: “R-E-S-P-E-C-T, find out what it means to me!”

What does respect mean for you? Do you believe that someone’s actions can earn respect, tarnish your respect, or cause you to lose respect?

Roger Federer, one of the greatest tennis players of all time said, “I fear no one, but I respect everyone.”

Interesting quote from an athlete with so much success. Interesting in that he respects everyone he competes against. From the first-rounder that no one has ever heard of, to those he competes against in the finals. There is a humility and honor in his words. Do you give that kind of respect to everyone you compete against?

The real question we are asking about respect deals with the notion of value. And Federer, I believe, understood this aspect. He valued his opponents — their hard work, determination, abilities, etc. He respected and valued who they are as athletes and as people! 

Athlete, do you value yourself, your teammates, your opponents to give your best and and in return expect them to give their best?

If we view ourselves as more important or higher than our teammates, opponents, coaches, etc., they then become a commodity to be used. Federer shows a healthy view of humanity in his statement. He sees the value in himself, his coach, his sport, competition, and his opponent! 

When you see the person across the line from you, the player who slaps the floor as you dribble up the court, or the runner in the lane beside you for who they truly are, they no longer exist as an abstract thing or commodity to be used.

In Matthew 7 Jesus said, “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (this is the Golden Rule). And Paul reinforces these words in today’s Scripture: “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.”

Athlete, respecting your competitor, teammates, coaches, etc. gives value and demonstrates respect. What is your view of your opponent? Are they a commodity to use and then move on? What does it look like for you to show respect to your coaches, teammates or competitors today?

Jonathan Van Horn is author of “SHIFT: The Athlete’s Playbook 5 Proven Steps to Life After Sport.” He assists athletes through successful transitions in sport and life. You can hear stories and learn more about SHIFT on The SHIFT Podcast on iTunes and Spotify as well as online at


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