What’s It Like Dating an Athlete?

Are you someone who’s fascinated by people who push themselves to their physical limits? People whose reason for living is aiming for peak performance? The idea of dating an athlete may be appealing if you’re athletic yourself, you’re seeking someone who might motivate you to become more active, or you’re just a sports fan looking for some excitement in your life.

But does your daydream line up with reality? We’re here to give you a little insight into what it might be like to date an athlete—at any skill level. Read our advice on how to keep yourself from being sidelined.

And if you’re looking to date an athlete and haven’t found them yet, make sure to take a look at our list of the best dating apps for athletes of all levels.

Blonde Girl playing soccer

Take It To The Rec Level

If you’re interested in dating an athlete, you’ll have your best luck dating people whose interest in sports happens in recreational leagues—but don’t think casual, weekend warrior level: there are plenty of people in the desk-job world who take their recreational sports seriously.

This could mean nights together at the gym to keep game-ready, or keeping the splurging on sweets to a minimum. Depending on how committed your date is, this could mean there’s little sleeping in on Saturday mornings if there’s a big game at 9am and you want to cheer them on. It’s also possible that they practice with their team during the week as well.

Keep in mind it’s likely your significant other will have an interest in keeping up with the professional level of the sport that interests them. At best that means the potential for dates to pro sporting events—and at worst it means someone whose eyes are glued to a screen at the bar and constantly refreshing their phone to see if the score has changed.

Someone serious about recreational league sports is obviously capable of commitment—but you should be sure you’re dating someone who’s capable of committing to more than one thing at a time. There’s no reason you should get benched because of a hobby—no matter how extreme or hardcore that hobby may be.

Dating A College Athlete

The first word that comes to mind when you think “college athlete?” BUSY. It doesn’t matter if it’s basketball, football, tennis, baseball, soccer: dating a college athlete means dating someone who’s balancing a near-professional sports career with a mountain of classwork. College athletes need to unwind just like the rest of us, but in many cases, their ability to play is based on their ability to keep their grades up.

It’s definitely a high-pressure world as your date attempts to balance daily practice, time at the gym, away games and a full course load. And the odds are that if you’re dating a college athlete, you’ve got a full course load too. For some people, this can lead to an inseparable, two peas in a pod relationship as you study together, then hit the gym before you make it to the stands on game day. For others, it can mean catching up over spring break—not that the practices and games get put on hold—and making moments as time allows. It’s up to you to determine how intense a relationship you’re looking for, and to make sure you and your athletic significant other are on the same page.

Many college athletes dream of getting scouted for a professional league, but some are satisfied to play a sport they enjoy in exchange for the scholarship it provides. That satisfaction is important as very few college athletes are called up to the pros. If you’re in for the long haul, be prepared to provide emotional support to your partner as they deal with the ups and downs of the road to being a career athlete.

Going Pro

If you think college athletes are busy, imagine what it’s like in the Big Leagues: daily workouts, constantly on the move, possibly even press conferences and endorsement deals. It can take its physical and emotional toll on your significant other, so dating a professional athlete may make you the default nurturer in the relationship.

You may be the person that thrives on that nurturing energy. But it may be the off season before it’s paid back in kind. While extensive travel comes with the territory for a professional athlete, significant others almost always stay home. Not matter how much of a VIP your partner is, you’re not likely to be invited along for every away game.

At this level, there’s no shrugging things off with “it’s just a game.” Dating a person who has made sports their career has done so with the knowledge that they may only have a few years in the pros before they have to make way for younger players. That means an intense few years of doing what they love, and turning it into an adjacent career like coach, commentator, or scout as they age out of professional sports.

If your significant other is one of the few rare breakout stars, that could mean a lot of money and a lot of social opportunity hitting all at once. It’s an exciting time, and one that you and your significant other are likely to want to take advantage of. It’s likely you’ll have a sense of what kind of money manager your significant other is before they hit it big, but if not—keep an eye out for how they spend their money.

If you’re not on the road to marriage this may not matter, but if you’re looking for something lasting, having a significant other with their feet on the ground financially is the way to go. That doesn’t mean luxe Vegas suites are off the table. It just means they’re vacations and not your de facto home.

It can be a delicate balance, but hard work and understanding help any relationship flourish. Dating a dedicated athlete at any level can make that a little tougher, but sharing love for your partner’s passion goes a long way toward navigating any possible rough patches.

Want some more information? Make sure to check out the guide to dating an athlete where our team digs deeper into these concepts and more, including how to make that relationship work best.