Sore muscles, grueling training and abundant egos are the pitfalls of a professional athlete's otherwise exciting career. For those married to fellow pro athletes, add to the list long stints of time apart, living in different time zones and competing playing schedules. The compromise and support these relationships require is something we can all appreciate, even if our own relationships seem ordinary next to the hectic lives of athletic superstars.
DeLisha Milton-Jones is a two-time women's basketball Olympic gold medalist, two-time b-ball World Champion and two-time WNBA Champion. Her husband, Roland Jones, is a lion in his own right, a professional basketball player who's spent his career playing for European leagues, however her successes have arguably trumped his. The couple started dating in 1999 and married in June 2003. After they were engaged, a family member flat-out asked Milton-Jones, "How is Roland going to handle you being the star?"
Milton-Jones says there's nothing to worry about. "He's so secure in himself as a man that whatever I accomplish wouldn't bother him because he's confident in who he is," she says. "He's the one who brought out the confidence in me and allows me to let my light shine as brightly as it possibly can."
Her husband concurs. "What man doesn't encourage his wife to be her best? It's just a no-brainer. How could I ever take away from DeLisha's glory?" Jones asks. An interesting question, and one that succesful women often ask in frustration when their personal and professional lives butt heads. Jones says one of his proudest moments was watching his wife run onto the Olympic court in Beijing last summer and in the end receiving her gold medal. Read: Can Powerful Women Find Love?
Jones, 35, doesn't deny he had aspirations of playing in the NBA. But he would have needed to dog his way through a developmental league (NBA's version of the minors) before being considered, and that would have meant too much time away from his wife. So instead of going for personal triumph he played overseas and tried to find jobs that placed he and Milton-Jones, 34, in the same country.
The WNBA's season runs during the summer and many of the players spend the rest of the year playing outside the United States, which is often where they make the big bucks. Over the course of 11 years as a pro, Milton-Jones has played in Russia, Korea, Czech Republic, Italy and for the last three years in Spain. With her credentials she might be able to command more money in another country, but she's chosen Spain because of the lifestyle and the opportunities that exist for her husband there. Read: How To Make Long-Distance Love Work
"Our plan is to be together and still make good money and live happily ever after," she says.
"My husband and I have chosen to remain together," Milton-Jones says. "The marriage is still young and being married is not easy. Being apart and married is even harder. To keep the marriage going and to allow us to continue to grow together, we've made the decision to stay together as much as we possibly can while we're in Europe."
In the long run, when their playing days are done, the couple hopes to find new careers working side by side as college coaches—fully expecting that she'll be the head coach and he'll be the assistant.
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