Divorce in Professional Athletics: Successful Sports Marriages

I decided to follow up my post on how Joe and I work at our marriage in the professional sports world with some thoughts shared by other professional basketball players.  I could have contacted other wives, but I thought that it would be neat to hear from the men about how their wives support them in different ways.  Plus the women don’t always get the public praise the men do.  I wish I could have obtained sweet words from all my readers husbands’.  But here are the few that I did get:

“My wife does a terrific job of supporting me in my career as it is not easy to get up and move your family to a foreign country every year. Just when things get settled in the US during the summer, then it’s time to pack your life into 2 bulging suitcases and as many carry-ons as you can sneak by the airline employees. We keep our marriage strong by doing our best to stay strong in our Christian faith as Jesus is the Rock in our ever-changing lives. It is a sacrifice to leave the comforts of home to live in place where you may not know a soul before the plane touches down. Cara takes great care of our family (Hannah and I) through simple yet selfless acts. For example, after a long practice the last thing I feel like doing is cooking dinner. Cara steps up and makes sure we are eating well as she prepares meals for us. While many would consider this normal and routine as a “wife’s job”, I am still thankful every night and I appreciate the way she takes great care of us. I look for ways to serve her also and put her first as much as possible. Men, I highly recommend a good foot rub for your wife after the day is done. Or go big and just buy a whole massage table. By putting each other first and looking for ways to serve each other, it shows your love and speaks volumes toward what your spouse means to you.”
- Tyler Smith (professional basketball player for Hitachi Sunrockers in Japan and founder of Pro Player Video) Read more about Tyler’s wife Cara here

“My wife Jenny inspires and supports me every day of our marriage. That balance of being pushed to be better, but always supported no matter what is key for our relationship. She inspires me to be a better person, husband and basketball player and yet supports and loves me when I inevitably fall short. Feeling this unconditional love and support is what strengthens my bond and keeps me from making bad choices or disconecting from the relationship.”
- Tony Binetti (professional basketball player for Veroli in Italy)

“This season has been one of great trials for our family. Being injured and out of a job has been a stressful to say the least. But allowing your situation to get the best of you, allows the adversary to slide in and wreak havoc. Having a loving and God-fearing help meet, has been a tremendous blessing. Her firm and unwavering faith has over flowed into our marriage, keeping it strong through these tough times.”
- Keith Spencer (played professional basketball last year in Holland)

“The biggest factor in keeping our marriage going, moving forward, and strong is our relationship with Jesus Christ. When we made this commitment, it didn’t necessarily make it easier, but we both had a place to go(church family), a person to talk to(prayer), and a blueprint laid out in front of us (Bible).
Not gonna lie, a huge influence for both myself and Kearstin was the book “Creative Marriage” by Ed Young. Highly recommended to those thinking of marriage, already married, or thinking about divorce!

Professionally Kearstin kept everything in perspective for me. As many know, playing basketball overseas can take it’s toll on you and I am not solely talking about physically. The mental wear & tear of fighting for money, etc. I can remember being single in europe & coming home where the built up frustration would consume me and then I would go out with teammates and we would all talk about what’s going on. Where when I had Kearstin I came home and didn’t have to talk basketball. We were a family, had other things going on, I saw the bigger picture and my frustration or lack of focus was instantly turned to me counting my blessings and being thankful.

Other little things she helped with:
cooking unbelievable meals for me and my teammates
clean house
sense of humor
allowing me to rest when needed
most importantly, having a huge passion for basketball and willing to be a wife, mother, and best friend all throughout europe with the threat of not knowing what is next!

As a professional basketball player it is such a gift/blessing to have a woman in your life that is willing to go on this journey with you. There are so many memories and experiences that basketball has given my wife throughout the world. There are also so many memories and experiences that I wish she didn’t have to go through, but going through those times with her is what made us a more complete and stronger Harrington Family.”
- Adam Harrington (played professional basketball last year with SKK Kotwica in Poland and founder of the The Jill E. Harrington Hanzalik Memorial Fund)

“My wife supports me by giving encouragement and prayer in my professional carreer. As far as marriage, we try to keep God first. He is the center. if we constantly work to get closer to Him,we always get closer. And our bond grows stronger. God is love. So no two people in a marriage can truly love each other unless they have God. Be blessed to be a blessing.”
- Henry Domercant (professional basketball player with Spartak in Russia)

“Maria has always been very supportive of me during my career. She put her career on hold to go away with me for 3 seasons. After our son was born she went back to her career (due a lot to my being injured at the time and was unsure of my playing future). I played the next 3 season going alone and during that time she had her full time job, took care of our son, and handled everything that need to be done on the home front alone. I still am and always will be in awe at how she was able to take care of everything she did and keep thing running smoothly.”
- Kevin Johnson (played professional basketball last year with Petrochimi in Iran

As you know it’s not easy to live and play at times in Europe when teams are always late with your money, you’re always tired from practice or getting nagging injuries, you feel like you are too tired to help with the kids and you are always leaning on your wife to do things. That’s why my wife is the best wife a man could have. She has supported me when the money wasn’t coming in, when we were in a very tough and difficult situation, and when I just wanted to bail out and leave to another team or country. Even when I had a bad game and needed someone to talk to, my wife has kept me focused and humble. She is the backbone of the family (really I’m the backbone, jk). I get out of practice and she has dinner ready and the baby washed up and ready for bed when she knows I’m tired or had a rough week of practice or just physically done. She knows when to give me a nice intense massage like no other along with being a good wife and a good mother. I couldn’t ask God to put me in my situation with any other person in this world. She has always been very supportive since we first started dating. No matter what, even when I’ve had a terrible game she knows what and when to say things to butter me up or knows when we need our talk or our Wii time when the kids are sleep. She knows when our relationship starts to get a little fragile, when we need our 1-on-1, husband-to-wife talk, and that’s all I need in a person that is this strong and supportive.
- Omar Thomas (professional basketball player with Avellino in Italy) Read more about Omar’s wife Anne here

“Edwina has been great with both supporting my career and keeping a strong marriage. She has followed me through various cities in Italy, and sacrificed her family and friends back home for my career. She didn’t even speak a word of Italian before she got here and now she is fluent by teaching herself and studying. I am so happy she decided to accept my career and also make the effort to adapt into Italian society and culture. I am sure it wasnt easy but these are things that I am always thankful for. Come to think of it, I should let her know more often. Now that we are new parents she also has blossomed into a beautiful mother and has done an incredible job. All on her own she takes care of the baby and the house as much as she can to help me get my rest for basketball. No family or babysitters, she is a natural. She is also always there for me for encouragement and advice when it comes to my job. Her support is not only appreciated, it is needed by me to even have my basketball career.”
- Ryan Bucci (professional basketball player with Barcellona in Italy) You can read more about Ryan’s experience growing up in a professional basketball family here

“Let me start off by saying if it weren’t for my wife being with me in Italy every year, there’s no way I would still be playing basketball. We are usually apart from each other two times over the coarse of the season (once in August for 5 weeks while my son finishes his football season and once in January for 4 weeks while the kids do all their mid-term testing and Amber gathers their school material for the remainder of the year). Everytime we are apart I find it to be the most difficult to fully focus on doing my job as a basketball player. Having your best friend to come home to every night and to see you off in the mornings is a must. We all know that basketball seasons are full of frustrations, ranging from incompitent coaches, general managers and even teammates, and having someone there to calm you down and help put things back into perspective is a must. We as basketball players also have a tendency to start thinking we’re pretty important people, especially after a couple of big games in a row. Having a wife to also keep you grounded so that you don’t get too big of a head is also a must. :)

To keep our marriage strong we do a few things that maybe most people don’t do. We pray together as a family each night. Our kids know that before we go to bed, we always have family prayer. It’s something simple but definitely brings us closer together as a family.

My wife has started a night that we designate as “Movie Night”. Every Monday night we pop popcorn and sit down together as a family and watch a movie together (popcorn is a must!!!).

My wife also surprises me a couple times a month by having a candle lit dinner (just her and I). She feeds the kids while I’m at practice and then waits for me to get home so we can eat together just the two of us. Something simple but definitely a marriage builder.”
– Trent Whiting (professional basketball player with Imola in Italy)

“I could write a book about the way my wife supports me not only in my career but throughout our marriage.  To keep it short and simple I would say that communication is a major key for us. We seek to be transparent with one another and communicate about every aspect of our lives and marriage. In the world of pro basketball there are many highs and lows. She keeps me grounded during the highs and encourages me during the lows. It’s comforting to know that no matter what happens on the court she will always be there for me. Our marriage is not based on basketball but on our common bound in Jesus Christ.”
- Jobey Thomas (Professional basketball player with Varese in Italy)

You ladies are all doing a wonderful job to support your husbands and  to keep your marriages strong in the professional basketball world, either past or present. I am thankful for you all today.

So these last three posts were in no way a comprehensive look at divorce in professional athletics, but hopefully a couple of different views that can help us to battle against it in our own lives and to sympathize with those who go through the heartbreak of it.  On Monday, you will get to hear one more view from my husband on his thoughts on the subject.