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Student athletes find time for love too

Couples make it work between gym sessions and game day

Published: Thursday, February 10, 2011

Updated: Friday, May 17, 2013 13:05


Special to The Prospector

Football player Bernard Obi and volleyball player Marie-Therese Joyce found love despite a demanding athletic schedule.

The stress of a college athletic career can weigh heavy on student athletes. Between grueling work outs out-of-town meets and games, some Miner athletes find it hard to maintain a meaningful romantic relationship.

Football player Bernard Obi and volleyball athlete Marie-Therese Joyce have overcome the demands of their college athletic careers and have been able to cultivate a special bond.

Like so many couples, Obi and Joyce initially met on the popular social network, Facebook.

"She asked me on Facebook if I had voted for the athlete's initiative or not and I said, ‘No, I haven't' and we started talking, and the rest is history," Obi said.  

Obi first met Joyce when he moved into Miner Village in July 2008 to workout with the football team. A teammate introduced Obi to Joyce and her roomate but they didn't speak again for two years when Joyce sparked a conversation with Obi on Facebook.

Even after the challenge of finding time to get to know one another, their new-found relationship was hit with the hurdle of making time in between their athletic schedule.

"We understand and respect each other's schedules," Joyce said. "We have typically the same schedule so we understand if I have to go to classes or if he has to go to classes.  Understanding each other is a big part of it."

Besides working around game day schedules, the couple also tries to attend each other's games when possible and visit each other after contests.

"Usually after a game I tell her she does well.  I've never seen her have a bad game but she always does well," Obi said.  "Sometimes she is frustrated after a bad loss but I just know how to decipher how she will be after the end result."

The UTEP football team lost just one home game this season to the Tulane Green Wave.  In the face of hard losses, which are inevitable for any sports athlete, the couple has learned how to work through game letdowns.

"When they lost the Tulane game, I was very scared because he's very passionate about football and he's very hard on himself," Joyce said.  "I learned to give him his space. One time I pushed saying, ‘are you ok?'  I learned that he's fine when he wants to talk.  I think our relationship has improved through that by learning how each other reacts."

Obi shares an apartment with two other football players off-campus while Joyce lives on her own in a westside apartment complex.  But the two are constantly with each other and enjoy simply relaxing together.

"In the dorms, everybody is always doing things on Friday and Saturday.  When you're off campus more people want to just mellow out, relax and just stay at home," Obi said.  "One good thing about her was that she didn't always want to go out.  She was more mellow and laidback."

Junior soccer player Jessie Pettit and Cooper Brock, a UTEP football red-shirted freshman, were also brought together through Facebook.  Pettit remembers meeting Brock for the first time while playing soccer at the Sun Bowl. While playing in the stadium, Pettit injured herself just as Brock and his parents were visiting the Sun Bowl.  Brock offered Pettit help but she was too embarrassed to even make eye contact with him.  Pettit and Brock became friends on Facebook but she initially thought Brock was rude. The two continued talking, started hanging out and haven't stopped for the last 10 months.

According to the couple, their schedules haven't affected their relationship as student athletes.  Spending time with each other during and after the season has been easier than expected as well.

"Playing other sports doesn't affect anything because we work out about the same time everyday so then we hang out at night," Pettit said.  "Our games were different times (in 2010). Mine were on Friday and Sunday and his were on Saturday. He actually red shirted this year so he didn't have to travel and it was easier."

The couple lives on campus and is able to balance social pressures and commitments with other friends.

According to Obi, short-term relationships are more common than long term relationships among college students, and the same is true about athletes.

"Maybe it will (change) as we get older because right now our teams are very young and enjoying college, being single and being athletes."

William Vega may be reached at

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