Love and Relationships

Play hard, love hard: How athlete couples make it work

Rob Andrew Dongiapon, Philip Matel

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Play hard, love hard: How athlete couples make it work

POWER PAIRS. Sports couples (from top, clockwise) Jaja Santiago and Taka Minowa, Shola Alvarez and Tin Tiamzon, Denden Lazaro and LA Revilla, and Kamille Cal and Aby Marano.


Pro athletes face their own unique sets of challenges in sports and relationships, but here’s why love wins

MANILA, Philippines – Sports couples may have it harder given their tough schedule, and much like celebrities, their personal lives get scrutinized. 

As relationships also hinge on time and understanding, pro athletes face their own unique sets of challenges.

With their jobs entailing them to be committed to their sport virtually 24/7 – from hectic trainings to strict diet plans to gym workouts on non-game days – it takes dedication and passion to keep hearts flaming.

Several athletes, though, continue to thrive on the hard court, while still making their personal relationships work off it.

‘Best version’

Veteran volleyball star Aby Maraño of Chery Tiggo and Nxled’s Kamille Cal make sure to keep tabs on each other even as they face off in the Premier Volleyball League (PVL).

“We motivate each other since we are both athletes of the same sport,” said Maraño, the former team captain of the Philippine women’s volleyball team.

“So, there are times that I look out for her, and she looks out for me. In the end, we encourage each other to be the best version of ourselves.” 

Maraño and Kal have been together since 2022, proud that they’ve been going strong since.


Volleyball standout Denden Lazaro and husband, former basketball player LA Revilla, agree that dealing with the same struggles leads to a more patient and understanding relationship.

And in their case, even transcending school rivalries as Lazaro suited up for Ateneo and Revilla for La Salle during their collegiate primes. 

Both players earned UAAP championships for their respective schools, with Lazaro helping lead Ateneo to two titles along with Alyssa Valdez, and Revilla serving as a steady point guard in the Green Archers’ 2013 title run.

“He understands my very hectic schedule, one that even on holidays, there are no days off,” Lazaro said of her relationship with Revilla. 

“He understands the fatigue that even when I have a free day, I’d rather just want that to be my rest day.”

Time management

Lazaro shares they understand the need to sacrifice whenever they have games or trainings that fall on special days like Valentine’s Day, or even on holidays.

“On Valentine’s Day, he knows I have training, I’m tired. But that’s okay, we can spend the rest of our lives celebrating,” said a beaming Lazaro.

The couple tied the knot in 2020, a year after announcing their engagement.

Since their marriage, Revilla has shifted to coaching, helping shape the next generation of basketball players as an assistant coach of the UE Red Warriors.

Galerie Tower’s Shola Alvarez, who is engaged to former F2 Logistics teammate Tin Tiamzon, agrees that time management plays a major factor. 

In 2023, Alvarez and Tiamzon showed how much they’re thriving as they  jointly announced their engagement in August after a couple of years together.

“Actually, it comes down to time management, especially when fatigue comes, that is when one needs to exert effort for their partner,” shared Alvarez.

Tiamzon, though, will shift roles from player to supporter starting this year as  the Fil-Canadian announced her retirement from volleyball last January after the Cargo Movers disbanded their PVL squad.

Love across the seas

But whatever sporting role they take, it’s important to lift each other up.

In the case of Philippine volleyball star Jaja Santiago and her husband, Nxled’s Japanese head coach Taka Minowa, they even found themselves switching places. 

Minowa wound up heading to Manila to coach in the local pro league, while Santiago flew to Nishinomiya to play as an import in the Japan B. League’s JT Marvelous. 

“Try to understand… especially as a player, sometimes their emotions get down,” Minowa said. 

“And that is the time [your partner] needs to help.” 

Santiago, the former NU Lady Bulldogs stalwart, previously played for the Japanese club Ageo Medics, where Minowa served as one of the coaches.

Minowa and Santiago announced their engagement in August 2022, then got married in October the same year.

Finding a work-life balance is also key to make a relationship work, according to the tactician. 

“We cannot forget we have a husband or a wife. That’s the most important. Don’t focus on too much work.” —

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