How This WNBA Couple Became

When Jasmine Thomas was traded to the Sun in 2015, she had plans. Together with her dream, she planned revenge for being swept away in the ’13 WNBA Final, which she missed the following year. She planned to spend more of her time playing with the guard as she closes her worst stats season of her own career. But Natisha Hiedeman’s appearance at the ’19 training camp was not what Thomas had planned.

“Playing in the same position, we got to know each other, we spent a lot of time together, and we just became friends,” says Thomas. “I got to know her as one of hers and I fell in love with who she was.”

Thomas and Hiedeman are one of three WNBA teammates who are in an openly romantic relationship. The recently engaged couple, along with Sun teammates Alyssa Thomas and DeWanna Bonner, and Chicago defenders Courtney Vandersloot and Allie Quigley, find love in the league and explore the unique dynamics of balancing work and personal life while playing with the people that matter to them.

Courtesy of the Connecticut Sun

Overall, players said they never thought they would find a mate at work. Not only did Vandersloot not plan for it, he opposed it for a while.

“Obviously, if you break up, things get messed up,” she says. “It’s tough for the other team members, and that’s something that was really discussed in the early days of our courtship. If it got to that point, it wouldn’t be worth it to us because we never wanted to cause problems or distractions on the team.”

However, she and Quigley met at the start of the 2013 season in Chicago after playing for different teams in Slovakia a few months ago.

In the early stages, they kept their relationship a secret. It was towards the end of the season and we knew we would go our separate ways in the offseason, so I wanted to check before joining the team.

Thomas said she and Hiedeman went through something similar.

“There was a bit of hesitation when I went out with people at work, no matter what their profession, because there are definitely things that accompany them,” she says. “I don’t want to mess with the chemistry,” she said. I don’t want to mess with anything that has to do with what’s going on in court.”

But eventually the couple started talking to people.

“I thought no one knew, but everyone knew,” says Quigley.

For Sun’s Curt Miller, team relationships are nothing new. After 19 seasons as a manager (13 seasons at Division I level, 6 seasons in Connecticut), he says he has built player relationships within the team at two stages of his career and has learned to navigate.

“I think the best way is to have genuine transparency and honest, direct communication,” he says. “I’ll sit those couples down and say I’m supportive of them and I’m really happy for them. All I’m asking is that when they work professionally they are truly pros and that they don’t have any impact on the team going on in their personal lives.”

Miller is one of the openly gay male coaches in team sports, so improving these relationships is a priority for him.

“It’s frustrating because you’re in a job that isn’t always the case in women’s basketball,” he says. “Unfortunately, not all coaches embrace or embrace relationships between teams. I’ve always found it very disappointing because it’s a hidden or truly unlivable relationship. They cannot be true to themselves or their teammates.”

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However, the environment he created in Connecticut allowed two pairs to be revealed, not just one.

“He understands,” says Hiedman. “Not only that, I’m really proud of it. He is open-minded and high-voiced, and he encourages others to become their true selves. That way he feels easier to play and can be a team where he can be who he really is.”

Miller said he’s seen these relationships improve team chemistry.

“I firmly believe that the championship is won in the locker room before it is won on the court,” he says. “When there is some relationship dynamic within a team, they already know that they truly care and love each other. And that’s what you’re trying to make in the locker room.”

As a coach for Indiana and Bowling Green, he has always emphasized the importance of spending time with his teammates off the court. He brought this approach to the WNBA and encourages couples on teams to engage in opportunities to bond with other teammates without isolating themselves.

Allie Quigley Gives Her Wife Courtney Vandersloot A Low Five

Vandersloot says of Quigley, “We’re all responsible for each other.”

Matt Marton/USA TODAY Sports

Vandersloot and Quigley did the same in Chicago and decided for themselves to create a family environment within a team that showed no favors to each other.

“We are responsible to each other that much,” Vandersloot said. “My teammates will see me competing against Allie. She is no exception to her. I think that also helps because we know it’s business when we’re in court. We win the game and become the best we can be. … We will never be distracted. We are just going to be something positive for the team.”

However, there are some challenges that couples have to work through. Being together 24/7 is the best way to balance work and family life.

“There are days when a couple turns their heads without arriving by car or sitting next to each other at the airport gate. How is everything going?‘ says Miller.

Thomas and Hiedeman see themselves as polar opposites. Hiedeman is a laid-back person and Thomas is always busy and loves to schedule things. By acknowledging these differences, we keep a balance and make it work.

“I think sometimes I need a break from me, even if she doesn’t admit it,” Thomas says. “She likes to lie down and watch Netflix, and I know I need a break from time to time.”

Quigley says she and Vandersloot also came to understand the balance.

“We know when we need time apart, we know when we need to be with each other 24 hours a day,” she says. “Like any other relationship, we learn from each other and know what each other needs.”

Some couples working together may make a conscious effort to separate work and family life, but the Vanderquigs don’t have to.

“We’re both obsessed with basketball, so it’s good to talk about it at home,” Quigley says. “We’ve figured out how to navigate it.”

Another big challenge for couples in the league comes at contract time. After winning last season, Quigley and Vandersloot became free agents this offseason and have made difficult decisions about their future in Chicago.

“We knew it would be difficult to explore what this free agent would be best for both of us,” Quigley says. “We communicated and talked a lot and ultimately made the best decision for us.”

After a tough conversation, the Vanderquigs both renewed their contracts with Sky for a year.

The couple faces similar challenges when it comes to other important career decisions, such as playing abroad. It’s easy being a teammate, especially for Thomas and Hiedeman, who spend the offseason in other countries.

“We have to spend so much time apart and it’s tough in a relationship,” says Thomas. “Being on a team in the summer helps because we know we will be together again.”

This offseason, Hiedeman had the opportunity to play for Russia, known as one of the most difficult countries to leave many WNBA players due to language barriers, weather, jet lag and the ongoing war with Ukraine. whole country. However, after consulting with Thomas, she could not miss the opportunity.

Hiedeman says: “When we make those decisions, we don’t put the relationship second, we want the best for each other first.”

The two Sun players have a seven-year age gap, which Thomas says can make difficult decisions.

“I’ve been through it,” she says. “I know what she has in front of her. I know the type of job she wants and she will go wherever she wants. I understand it. it doesn’t scare me I like that part of the grind. I try to help her give her advice. But now that her working life is coming to an end, she is ready to get married and have children for the next phase of her life.”

Even if there have been intra-team relationships around the WNBA for the past 25 years, the openness shown by the players now reflects the changing dynamics of the league.

“Like many things, W is at the forefront of embracing social issues,” says Thomas. “You see powerful and influential women living their truth and sharing it out loud. It wasn’t accepted, it wasn’t accepted, it didn’t feel that safe.”

Miller believes this is primarily due to a change of mind in people at the top.

“I think there’s been a lot of maturity and growth through people in positions of ownership and power,” he says. “We are supported by the organization that we can truly truly live. And we model it top to bottom in Connecticut.”

There is still room for growth when it comes to embracing LGBTQ+ relationships in the sport, but players say the support they have received from the team and fan base outweighs any backlash they have received.

“By making games for the LGBTQ community and listening to the fans in the LGBTQ community, we can tell how much our relationship means to them,” says Quigley. “Sometimes we don’t realize how much progress has been made.”

Dating teammates may be unconventional in most leagues, but some WNBA teams can build stronger bonds while allowing these players to share their favorite games with the ones they love the most.

“Pro sports in general can be a lonely road, especially if you play abroad in the WNBA,” Vandersloot says. “Having someone to be with you while understanding what you’re going through certainly makes a trip special, enjoyable and special. I think finding that link is inevitable.”

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