Athletes in love: A grounded theory of collegiate athletes navigating romantic relationships and sports



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Collegiate athletes face many unique challenges that can cause stress in their college careers including individual and team performance, coaches, classes, money, fatigue, injury, and time. Athletes’ ability to manage their time is an important factor to consider when looking at performance in their respective sport. Social support is also vital for student athletes; however, there is little research about the impact of romantic relationships in student-athlete’s lives. Most research on student-athletes’ social support focuses on relationships with their families, friends, coaches, and teammates. While there are some empirical studies addressing athletes and romantic relationships, studies vary regarding the age of the participants, the length of the relationship, and the type of relationship of the participants. Using the biopsychosocial-spiritual model of health as a theoretical foundation, the purpose of this grounded theory was to examine the process by which college athletes navigate romantic relationships while playing collegiate sports. The grounded theory developed in this study illustrates when the student-athlete sets their priorities well, balances their time efficiently, and manages their stress as best as they can, it allowed them to communicate and support their partner better. In turn, this allowed the partners to support their athlete partners better in managing their stress. In healthy relationships, the partner understood the student-athlete’s experience and stressors, which relieved pressure for the student-athlete. Results suggest that student-athletes who maintain healthy relationships often experience improved well-being and, in some cases, improved performance.



Student-athletes, Romantic relationships, Sport performance