Recent Comments

    Couples Who Play Sports Together Stay Together: Love Tackles

    By John Chen–

    Once upon a time, a young woman named Isabel Ongpin in San Diego wanted a nice woman for herself. “I wanted a tough woman, but with a soft feminine side,” she tells me for the San Francisco Bay Times. “I wanted her to be tall, but not too tall.”

    “Then I saw her (Erin Hollingsworth’s) photo on Plenty of Fish, a dating site,” she adds. “I took a chance and messaged her. Our first date was at a sushi bar and I remembered my hands were shaking because I was so nervous. I felt sick to my stomach and couldn’t eat the tempura I ordered and Erin finished it for me. That was nice.”

    After that first date, Ongpin felt little interest and chemistry from Hollingsworth since all of her responses were closed-ended, few-word answers. Ongpin had all but given up when Hollingsworth out of the blue messaged her right before Thanksgiving. “We went to BJ’s and shared a magical Pizookie (dessert). Suddenly we had chemistry. That night, after we said our goodbyes, I gave her an awkward hug. Went back to my little Nissan Versa and slammed my hands onto the steering, ‘Why didn’t I kiss her?!'”

    Once upon a time a young marine named Erin Hollingsworth was transferred to San Diego and wanted to meet other women in her new city. She joined ( ). “Shortly after signing up, told me it was time to connect with my ‘matches’ and Isabel was a 100% match. I thought she was really cute from her photos and she had a well-constructed intro, so why not? But I never heard back from her.”

    “Months later, I received a message from Isabel on Plenty of Fish and I was like, hey this is the girl I liked who never responded on We ended up going to a Japanese restaurant on our first date where I nervously ate everything including Isabel’s dinner. But we didn’t have much chemistry. There was gnarly a spark.”

    Hollingsworth continues, “Right before Thanksgiving we went on a second date to BJ’s, a restaurant and an acronym [unbeknownst] to me. This time around we started having chemistry and we flirted. At the end of the date, I was thinking, ‘Is she gonna kiss me? I am OK with that.’ But we ended up giving one another a cheek to cheek awkward hug even though I wanted a kiss.”

    Hollingsworth grew up in a small town in Iowa. She loved sports and played backyard football with the neighborhood boys. “I love football,” she says, “but couldn’t play on my high school team so I joined the cheerleading squad, not to get close to the football players, but to get close to the game. I had the best seat in the house!”

    Unlike Hollingsworth, Ongpin while growing up didn’t play sports and didn’t know much about them, either. But Ongpin wanted to learn football so that she could watch pro football with, and play alongside, Hollingsworth. Ongpin was and still is a true student of the game, carefully analyzing plays, routes, and defensive schemes with Hollingsworth on football Sundays. “My position is the running back,” explains Ongpin, “so I take extra note learning techniques and how the pros make cuts, see the field, and run behind tackles.”

    After moving from San Diego to San Francisco two and a half years ago, Ongpin and Hollingsworth have been playing football together in the San Francisco Women’s Flag Football League (SFWFFL). Oh, and they also were married in December 2017. “Communication and trust are the keys to success in football,” advises Hollingsworth. “Playing football together has definitely brought us even closer and further strengthened our relationship.”

    “I had to learn to listen to Erin on the field because she’s the quarterback, the leader of the team,” Ongpin says. “In the beginning, it was hard to hear about my mistakes, but over time, I realized Erin was really there to help and guide me. On the field, she always knows to say positive and encouraging things to me, just like at home. Erin compliments me. Tells me I did well and I look great, etc. She’s my guardian and my love!”

    Hollingsworth evidenced that during my interview with her.

    “I love how Isabel is such a student of the game,” she says. “Playing football together has been a healthy outlet for the both of us. When she messed up or I made a terrible play, we tell each other something we did right. When she scored a touchdown, I felt most proud! Regardless of the results on or off the field, the most important thing is when we don’t succeed, we did it together. And when we do succeed, we did it together. Everything we do, graduating from college, playing football, we are bettering ourselves together.”

    And if you, like me, were wondering whatever happened to that message Hollingsworth sent to Ongpin on, Ongpin says she never got it.

    John Chen, a UCLA alumnus and an avid sports fan, has competed as well as coached tennis, volleyball, softball and football teams.

    Published on November 28, 2019