|Some college hockey players use pink hockey tape!|
A traditional sports romance title usually (but not always) follows a male athlete in a pro league. He's made it to the tippy top of his profession, and found it to be a bumpy ride, or perhaps lonely at the top.
In NA sports romance, I've generally found a whole lot more variation in the conflicts underlying the storylines. Why? A college athlete doesn't have an entourage. He has homework. Or money troubles. Or family drama. He's on the cusp of greatness, perhaps. But the cafeteria line waits for no man.
Since there are many more female college athletes than female pro players, storyline variation across gender lines is more prolific in NA. It's fun to skirt gender expectations in an NA title. (Skirt! Did you see what I just did there?) The Year We Fell Down and The Year We Hid Away both feature female hockey players as well as men, and those heroines were a whole lot of fun to write.
Sports are terrific fodder for storytelling because they bring drama and passion to the page. Maybe I'm showing my age, but my youth was peppered with that Wide World of Sports introduction with these oft repeated words: "spanning the globe to bring you... the thrill of victory, and the agony of defeat." (And then the trumpets said: "Da-da-da-DAAAA.")
So while sports are great for storytelling, I don't always need to read about athletes at the top of the food chain. I like rippling abs as much as the next girl, but sometimes a good drama reads even more vividly on an athlete who isn't necessarily destined for the NHL or NFL.
In short, I like college athletes for the same reason that diversity is always a good read -- different heroines and heroes are fresher. Less familiar. Less expected.
There's a Facebook group called The Locker Room which celebrates all kinds of Sporty NA.
I asked members of The Locker Room to suggest titles where the heroine plays too:
Deeper by Robin York (the heroine plays rugby!)
Scoring Wilder by R.S. Grey (soccer!)
Blocked by Jennifer Lane (volleyball!)
Shadowboxer by Cari Quinn (MMA!)
Life on the Edge by Jennifer Comeaux (skating!)
Other Authors of Sporty NA:
Elle Kennedy (The Deal)
Kristen Callihan (The Hookup)
Monica Murphy (One Week Girlfriend)
Amy Jo Cousins (Off Campus)
Cora Carmack (All Lined Up)
Do you know of even more?