Best Friends, Best Competitors

Just like a gazillion Americans out there, I’m obsessed with The Olympics. Swimming? Check. Gymnastics? Check. Canoe Slalom? Fine.

In the light of all the gymnastics drama (Poor Jordyn, that rule blows!) I’ve been thinking a lot about what it must be like to compete against your BFFs. Some of these gymnasts have known each other since they were six years old. Have you seen this decade-old pic of U.S gymnasts Kyla Ross and McKayla Maroney at the gym together? It’s amazing.

A lot has been made of the fact that two other gymnasts, Jordyn Weiber and Aly Raisman, are best friends, but the latter knocked the former out of the gymastics all-around finals. Also of the friendship-slash-rivalry between Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte. I can’t imagine what it must be like to be best friends and teammates, but also competitors. I know they do a good job of saying the right thing, but it seems that all of these athletes have actually mastered the art of being friends off the clock, and bitter rivals when competition starts.

You have to have a pretty serious emotional maturity to be able to compartmentalize a relationship so well. I’ve rarely been in any real competition with best friends, let alone of the Olympic-sized variety. But competing with a high school bestie for a spot on a team or a role in a play, or a college BFF for a job, or a work BFF for a promotion– it’s uncomfortable. You have to decide at the outset of how you want to approach it. Will you discuss it outright, or each do your own thing? Can you avoid letting competition taint the friendship?

Ever been in this situation yourself? You and your best pal are a pair, except when you want to kick each other’s butts?



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8 responses to “Best Friends, Best Competitors

  1. movingonmyown

    Not the Olympics, but my two best friends were in the same section in the same band with me. We had all three made it to the Wind Ensemble (the most talented band at our school). There were times when we had to compete for solos or for certain parts. I think the real gem here is that these ladies can support each other and be excited for one another. I remember practicing with my friends together for these parts and helping each other to be better. The reward was that one of us would make it and sound awesome. If they got the solo, the other two of use cheered her on. Because, in the end, as long as someone got it, it was great.
    As for the Olympics, since they are already IN the Olympics, they just want to do the best they can, and how awesome is it to have your best friend there to support you? And, how awesome is it to have your best friend beasting it in the Olympics? Either way, you made it, and they made it, and you both are going to go out blazing and cheering each other on πŸ™‚

  2. Yet again, not Olympics but my two best friends and I were each an year apart competing in National Athletics. πŸ™‚ So being the middle kid, one year I’d compete against the older for the age group Champion and the other year with the other.
    We never practiced together when it came to athletics unless it was a relay and we were constantly trying to one-up each other. While in anything else we were so close it was the kind of, pick-u-up-wipe-your-vomit-from-my-clothes kinda relationship. We love each other and looked out for each other. But on the track, we hardly acknowledged each other and were more often sore losers. But the day after the meet? Back to being BFFS πŸ˜€

  3. Sue

    I think this is a question that most individual event competitors (swimming, gymnastics, diving, etc.) would not ask, but someone who has traditionally done team sports (softball, volleyball, etc.) would ask. I swam for many, many years and obviously my teammates who I trained with each day were often my competitors in the pool during meets. It is something that you become accustomed to – trying to “beat” your friends. And it means that you don’t view it as a personal affront when they do beat you. I always liked it when my best competition was there day in and day out because it made us both better…

  4. Rod Arters

    I did compete against my best friend in the Olympics…. oh wait nevermind. That wasn’t me. An athlete at that level has to put everything aside but the goal. For 3 minutes of their life… they have no friends and family. Only muscle memory and country. There are no cameras or crowds. Only themselves and a clock.

  5. My bestfriend is also one of my competiotors, we push each other to do better. Especially if we share a common goal we try and help each other,like minded people stick together.

  6. Anonymous

    I competed for jobs with several close friends from law school, and it was really tough. I focused on the fact that even though we all had similar qualifications, jobs are personality driven, and a good fit for me might be a bad fit for a friend, and vice versa.

  7. Such an interesting topic and very common among friends, whether it’s for a job, a romantic interest/crush or that last piece of dessert you’re splitting. Healthy competition is just that – it can be good for the friendship and help to motivate you both to become your “better selves.”

    However, when there’s always competition between friends, it can become unhealthy and can definitely impact the friendship. The exception to this (I believe) is those who are in certain professions who are used to this type of competition. Athletes, for example. because they know that at the end of the day, it comes down to one winner. They may train with their friends and wish their friends success – yet it’s no secret that they also want to win.

    We will all face some type of competition with our friends – hopefully, the two of you discuss your feelings and open up that dialogue. It’s not easy seeing a friend get something you wanted, but unfortunately, these situations do happen and sometimes, we need to experience them so that we can learn how to manage disappointments – as that is also a very common thing – in our friendships and in our lives.

  8. Competition between my friends has ended both positively and negatively. I think it depends on what you are competting against. Boys in high school? That got childish and terrible. An internship in college? A bit more mature. Regardless, girls have a pre-disposition to compete against other women which I think makes it tough all around.

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