What Is a Sports Relationship And How To Handle Them Correctly

Sports relationships are a tricky topic. This post aims to give some insight of what the good bad and ugly of a relationship can look like. While I am not against relationships, there is a perspective that would be good for the readers to double-check. As always, if you have questions, comments, or concerns, reach out to me on this blog or send me a message @ Kickersofearth on all social media platforms.

What does a good relationship in sports look like

There are many components to a good sports relationship. While some couples work together seamlessly, others heavily struggle to find compatibility. The “power” couples you see from time to time thrive because they are successful at what they do, they have confidence in their abilities, and they own it. The best relationships I have ever seen have clear-cut responsibilities, and guidelines that are established from the beginning.

The couple then respects the guidelines, and the relationship starts off on the right foot. My wife (at the time girlfriend) and I established very early on in our sports relationship that we would keep our sports first since that is what we came to do. We were both paid to come to college (or the pros) and perform for the team we play for.

The second our performance started to slip, we did what we needed to do to find our rhythm again. Luckily we both understood that from the beginning so the feeling was mutual. By no means am I saying I am the golden example of what every sports relationship needs to be. But I am saying it can be easy to let your relationship affect your performance big time. 

A good sports relationship needs to respect each others schedule and time needed to achieve the results in their sport. If I need to go workout then kick on the field, I am saying that is what I need to do to her, and she needs to respect that. Vice versa, if she needs to practice her game from 8:00-12:00 I will find a way to occupy my time.

Now if it is made clear that the significant other is comfortable having you around them while they practice, so be it. But truthfully, the fewer distractions, the better. So whatever works but the point of practice is to be able to develop your skillset without a million other things taking away your focus. A great relationship in sports thrives when there are;

1. Clear boundaries

2. Respect of the boundaries

3. An understanding of keeping the main thing the main thing

The main things need to be your faith, education, sports, then your relationships. God always comes first. Now if you don’t believe in God, find a tree that you think is all powerful but you have to have a higher power that you revert to when times are both good and bad. 

Go to school for your education, not the big name school. Too many times I see athletes go to big schools and never play because they went for the shiny name instead of playing time. Sports end, education is forever. 

After education should be your sports. This is why you are at that school whether you are on scholarship, a preferred walk on, or just a raw walk on. You are there to earn a spot, play on the team, and perform at the highest level you can.

This is not the time to chase girls/boys around. You should make sure you have a handle on all three, THEN you can casually date/be in a sports relationship. My girlfriend at the time and I were very clear on we get our schoolwork done, then sports, THEN we can hang out and go to the movies and everything else. Get your priorities straight and then sprinkle in some fun.

What does a bad relationship in sports look like

As mentioned earlier, a bad relationship throws away all priorities aside and goes;

  1. Dating
  2. Dating
  3. Dating
  4. School/Sports/Faith

It is clear why high-performing athletes fall apart one season and never recover. Apart from the mental side of things, relationships play a huge part as to why players break down. Those athletes carry their relationships into their practices which follows them into the games. Their performance lacks and then it becomes a spiral of poor performance. 

While there are many forms of bad sports relationships, there are 3 main categories of bad people to date/associate with

  1. The Clingy type
  2. “I know what’s best for you”
  3. Let’s stay close to see each other more

The clingy significant other can’t simply let you out of their sight. They will always be around you whether you are working out, practicing, or playing games. And sure the argument can be made that the player needs someone watching over their back. But the player needs a partner not a parent. There shouldn’t be somebody in the athletes life who won’t let them go. Independence is necessary and how is the athlete supposed to lock in if someone is inside their bubble 24/7.

“I know what’s best for you’s” are debatably even worse. Parents often know what is best for the athlete but even then, their judgment can get in the way of where the athlete needs to go. 

“You need to go to X school because it’s where I went.” “But dad, I don’t like that school and might not even play because they have an all-American freshman who just had a fantastic season.” “I don’t care, you’re going there because it’ll make me feel good to tell my friends that you went there and I just flat out know what’s best for you.”

Now with a significant other, “Hey I think you should not do any homework tonight and skip that workout too, let’s go watch a movie instead.” “No, the assignment is due tomorrow and I really need to focus so I don’t get behind on my schoolwork.” “But we haven’t spent any time together today, are you even serious about this relationship?”

This might relate to you in some way but this is important to become aware with. The people we think are wanting to help us take our mind off of the workload and stress of school or sports are really limiting the athlete from doing what is right. Rather than let them convince you that the relationship is the primary focus, politely remind them that you are at that school to get your work done, get your education, and perform for the team. If you are not doing either of those things, why are you at that school or on the team?

The final bad sports relationship is the classic, “just go to the school that I’m going to so we can stay together. While I’m all for young love, it is really a matter of priorities at this point because if you or your significant other go to the same school with the sole purpose to keep the relationship going, that can severely limit your future potential. That essentially means you are making a short-term decision that will affect your long-term career. Sometimes both athletes get recruited by the same schools and that is fine, but it can get more complicated the farther along in school you go. 

In a perfect world, the sports relationship will prosper no matter the distance but it can put a lot of stress on both people. So the hard questions need to be asked;

  1. Is our relationship meant to last long distance?
  2. Are we willing to do what it takes to stay together, (phone calls, facetimes, always saying the truth because without trust, you have nothing) 
  3. Is the right decision to stay together or break it off now and stay friends?
  4. Can we really see a future together? If so, what would that look like?

IF the sports relationship is meant to last, it will. If not, it’s best to end it now and either stay friends or just go your separate ways.

A Sports relationship needs to be taken seriously.

When is it the right time to get in a relationship

Truthfully, many Sports relationships that seem bulletproof end up ending one way or another. Most often, communication is the centerpiece of it all. Poor communication causes a ripple effect and can damage even the best relationships.

Be sure to be honest, open, and clear on what both parties expect from one another. In addition, be sure to clarify what each individual will do for their partner to show that they are serious about the relationship. I hope you can tell now that I am serious about relationships, they are not like shaking someone’s hand then walking away 5 minutes later and you already forgot their name. (I’ve lost count how many times I’ve done that. I’m working on it okay!)

Relationships get out what you put into them. If you are truly serious about wanting to date someone, it needs to be clear that you both;

1. Have clear boundaries

2. Respect the boundaries

3. Have an understanding of keeping the main thing the main thing

After all of those principles are established, you have the green light. Now there will be days where things are rough, but if everyone stays committed to keep an honest and open line of communication, situations get solved and everyone is happier much faster. 

This is not the ultimate dating advice but it is more to give everyone an understanding that if you truly wish to make the sports relationship thrive, then get serious about the person you’re with. Don’t let other people get in the way of what you both have worked so hard to build. The right thing is always the right thing. Read that, again and again, to make it stick.

What are common mistakes in sports relationships

One thing many people I know are guilty of and I’ve done it once before is jealousy. Given that you and your significant other are a power couple, you will both be stars on the team. #1 don’t let it get to your head.(Always stay humble)  #2 Be proud of your partner not jealous of their spotlight. I have seen a couple fall apart because the guy was starting to fall in his performance, his girlfriend was dominating in her sport and they had an argument one night about how he feels like he is living in her shadow and they split up. Be proud of yourself for your accomplishments AND your spouses, you’ve both earned it.

What to do moving forward

Whether or not you decide to get into a sports relationship is your own deal. My part is simply making everyone who reads this aware of the realities of relationships in sports. It is not all sunshine and rainbows. My wife and I didn’t start dating until we were Juniors in college. We made sure to get all of our studies, and sports-related activities done before we saw each other. Sure we watched each other’s practices and games when we had time. But we never lost focus on the main goals. 

Faith, education, sports, and then our relationship remained the priority throughout our career and it served us well. We both performed the best we did throughout college whenever we got together because we were supportive of each other but also focused on what we needed to do. Some sports relationships are bad the moment they start.

They can be a burden and a time vampire to one another. So moving forward, it is best to wait until after college (or near the end) to start dating (preferably) Because truthfully, it takes a while to mature into a stage where both parties are ready for a serious relationship. But whatever floats your boat, just make sure to really pay attention to the relationship you are in if you have one already. If not, now you have the tools necessary to determine if this is truly worth your investment and time long term. If so, enjoy and reach out if you have any questions. Stay Amazing!

Be sure to check out the resources page for tools to help you develop as an athlete

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