Playing For the Other Team: Intra-team Dating – Secret Weapon or Achilles’ Heel?

By Nell Gelhaus September 4, 2014

Categories: Our Scene, Sports, Stories

All right, ladies. Stop me if you’ve seen this before. Or if you’ve lived this before.

It’s day one of softball/basketball/soccer/football practice. Your coaches have you participating in some stupid icebreaker. One by one, everyone is introducing themselves: where they’re from, what position they play, and perhaps divulging their most embarrassing life experience. The baby dyke (I use this term fondly) in the polo tells a story of getting drunk and dancing on a table at nationals, which is obviously just a humblebrag that her team went to nationals. You mumble something about passing out at a party and waking up with penises drawn all over your face, wishing that it would have happened at nationals, but your team only made it to regionals. F$@k!

You try to pay attention as everyone rattles off their life story, mostly sizing up other girls in the room, curious as to who’s going to give you a run for your money for the starting spot. You’re bored, waiting for actual practice to start. You just want to get to the drills already…to practice taking a few shots, hits, kicks, tackles, what-have-you. And then…you notice her. Damn, she’s hot. You wonder if she’s gay. She has her hair pulled back into a ponytail, is wearing a headband, and you overhear her saying, “Yeah, buddy.” Of course she is. And if she is pretending she isn’t, she will be soon.

Everyone’s now acquainted and you’re finally on to drills. Suicide sprints. In between gasping for air and puking, you notice that she’s only breathing slightly harder than normal, and she’s starting to sweat, and, damn, those are some BICEPS. And you catch her looking at you.

This, my friends, is a regular occurrence in the world of women’s athletics. Why? Because lesbians. The gym/field/court is the only place we can find our two favorite things: women and sports.

A couple months later…who am I kidding, a week later, and you’re dating. Attending practices excites you for reasons that have nothing to do with the sport. The two of you are in sync. You have your own rhythm. You pass, she shoots. She fields the ball, rockets it to you for the perfect out. She blocks, you run in for the score. No one can disrupt your flow. On the field and off, you’re the perfect team. And the actual team is winning a lot of games, due in no small part to your chemistry. You’re unstoppable.

Until you’re not.

You’re out at the team’s favorite bar, having just won a very close game against the biggest rivals in your conference. Shots, shots, shots, shots, shots, shots, everyBODY! You’re buzzed on life, you’re buzzed on love, or maybe you’re just buzzed. You down your fifth beer and turn to crack a joke to your girlfriend. Except she isn’t there. She’s…in the corner making out with the shortstop?!

Cut to two weeks later, on the bus on the way home from playoffs and you’re single, desperately trying to tune out the sounds of slurping coming from two seats behind you, where your ex and her new flame are playing something other than basketball. If that doesn’t make you miserable enough, while they’re sucking face, you’re seriously sucking on the court. Every shot is off, every pass is dropped and your hot new girlfriend seems to be the bench.

When your ex and her new girlfriend arrive for next practice dressed identically, down to their BOGO matching Under Armour socks and headbands (always with the headbands), you realize that you are faced with the lezbo version of Sophie’s Choice. So whaddya do, Meryl? Quit the team, or grit your teeth and try not to poke out your eyeballs?

So where does this leave us, ladies? Can we not successfully mix business with pleasure? Do we not date our teammates? That’s like telling my dog to stay out of my flower bed. She. Just. Can’t. Help. Herself. Further, does the fate of women’s athletics hinge on fidelity? The latter, hopefully not, though the issue is serious enough that even the NCAA has felt compelled to suggest a set of ground rules in their downloadable publication for GLBTQ inclusion, [Champions of Respect] for coaches training a team of athletes…and couples.

It can be done, as is evident by professional athletes, teammates, and partners Lianne Sanderson and Joanna Lohman of the NWSL’s Boston Breakers. Or Abby Wambach of the Western New York Flash and her former teammate and now wife, Sarah Huffman. AND it can be undone, as is evident by the death and destruction of many a women’s rec sports team. Whatever you decide, just remember: the choice was yours.

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