This question is on behalf of a friend of mine, "Alan".
Alan has a close friend, "Bob". A few months ago, Alan and Bob joined a sports club together. This sports club has several facilities, such as a gym, basketball court, squash court, and tennis court. Last month, the club announced that it would soon be holding a "Tennis Doubles Competition". Members were welcome to compete, with the caveat that they had to sign up in pairs (since it was a doubles competition). Basically, the teams play off against each other, with half the teams getting knocked out after each round, until only two teams are left to contest the final.
When the announcement was made, Bob was quite excited, and suggested to Alan that the two of them enter this competition. Alan wasn't sure, for a couple of reasons. Firstly, he didn't know if this competition was something he'd be interested in, and secondly (and most importantly) he wasn't sure he wanted to team up with Bob. Apparently, Bob is a great guy, and loves sport, but sadly, he is not a gifted athlete. He genuinely tries his best, but is pretty slow and clumsy. By contrast, Alan is a pretty good athlete, and tennis player in particular (took lessons as a kid) and strongly suspected that if he teamed up with Bob, Bob would only drag them down.
So Alan fobbed Bob off, by saying something like "Hmm, maybe. Not sure if this is really my thing. I'll have to think about it."
That was a few weeks ago, and according to Alan, Bob has not raised the issue since. Now the sign-up sheets have gone up, and the competition is starting soon. On re-consideration, Alan has realised that he'd definitely be interested in entering the tennis doubles competition. BUT - he'd prefer not to team up with Bob (for the reason mentioned above). Instead, there are several other guys at the club who Alan is friendly with, and who are good tennis players (eg "Charles", "Dan" and "Ed"). Ideally, Alan would like to team up with one of them, and he plans on talking to them soon, so he can secure one of them as his tennis partner.
Another factor is that each team has to supply a Ball Boy (or Ball Girl). The Ball Boys/Girls basically act as a support crew to their team, and to the competition in general. They stand on the sidelines during the match and retrieve any stray balls; they assist the umpire with scoring if necessary; and they ensure their team has things like towels and water bottles and spare racquets. Alan thinks he (and his tennis partner) could ask Bob to be their Ball Boy, so that Bob can still be involved in the competition without having to actually compete.
My questions (or rather, Alan's questions) are:
1) Is Alan obliged to pair up with Bob? Or is it ok for Alan to ask one of the other guys to be his tennis partner? (This one's pretty much academic, as Alan is planning on pairing up with someone else anyway).
2) If Bob asks why Alan paired up with someone else, does Alan have to give him an explanation? If so, should Alan gently tell him the truth: eg "You're a good mate, but you suck at tennis."?
3) Is it a good idea for Alan to ask Bob to be Ball Boy for their team? (I get the impression that Alan thinks he'll be making a very kind and inclusive gesture to Bob by asking him this, but I suspect it might come off like a "second prize" to Bob).