Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Couples who play together have a better chance to stay together.

Psychologists have long known that couples who play together have a better chance to stay together.

Forget speed dating, crowded bars and online profiles. Local singles and young professionals are playing the field and scoring healthy relationships through mixed team sports leagues.

"If you think about somebody who joins a sports team, they are more confident, more health-conscious and a little less into going out to bars - all the things that provide a healthy start to a relationship," says Barbara Walker, a sports psychologist based in Blue Ash.

"I don't think I would have dated a guy who didn't understand football," says Sarah Weber of Mount Washington.

Weber, 27, met her husband, Chet, 28, in September 2002 through the Cincinnati Sports League's sand volleyball league, which draws almost 500 players to the East End on Tuesday and Thursday nights.

They dated - and played softball and volleyball together - for nearly four years before getting married July 1.

"Some of the leagues have eight to 10 teams with a makeup much like your own (team)," says Brian Polark, co-founder of the CSL.

Since 2001, the CSL's membership has surged from 4,000 registered players to 15,000, ages 21-36. About 92 percent of its members are college grads.

For many young professionals, that's one deep yet comfortable dating pool.

"We had a lot of common ground to talk about, so it made the conversation a lot easier," says Ron Dunlevy, 33, of Cold Spring. About a year ago, Dunlevy met his girlfriend, Shauna Hunt, 27, of Wilder, at Town and Country Sports and Health Club in Wilder, where the couple plays on indoor and outdoor soccer teams.

After a relationship is established, shared interests can strengthen a couple's connection.

Lifelong soccer players Tracy Kennedy, 23, of Fort Wright and J.T. Roberts, 31, of Ludlow began dating about four months ago, after playing on the same team at Town and Country for almost three years.

"We both know when we've had a bad game. We don't have to say a word," Kennedy says.

This understanding becomes even more important when couples look ahead to marriage and children.

"If a spouse shares your active lifestyle, they'll understand you may not be home every evening and know that that time is part of a healthy relationship," Walker says.


Why Marriages Succeed or Fail: And How You Can Make Yours Last