I would consider myself to be a fairly competitive person, as I’m sure many others do. Whether its academics or athletics, I always try to be the best I can be. Though I have a lot of very supportive people in my life, the most supportive person I have in my life is also my biggest competition: my twin sister Tierney.
Tierney and I have been playing tennis together since we started 14 years ago and have played together on various teams and in many different tournaments. Through these experiences, I learned just how unique it is to play side-by-side with my sister, and even the benefits we both gained from this special athletic bond.
The best place to start is from the beginning, which for Tierney and I is around the age of 6. While this may seem like a young age to start, this is a fairly normal time considering we come from several generations of tennis players. After watching our older sisters compete, it felt only natural for Tierney and I to start when we were old enough to start learning.
This goes along with the research done by Robin Taylor and her associates where they found that older siblings tend to take on mentoring roles for their younger counterparts in sports. As a result their siblings try to emulate them. Going off of that, Tierney and I started small and did not start to seriously train until we were around 8. This was largely due to the fact that most of the tournaments around us did not really start until age 8. Up until that point it was just learning the basics and learning to have fun with it.
As we began to train more seriously, the most important aspect for our training was working as a team. Tierney and I were essentially set up to train as permanent doubles partners. For those of you who don’t know much about tennis, doubles is where you and another person play a match against two other people. The fact that we were training together and were the same exact age put us at an advantage against other teams.
Through training, we were set up to become each other’s opposite on the court and would compensate for what the other person could not do as well. It was a way of developing our own style of playing while also getting it to match each other. When talking to Tierney about her own style, she liked to refer to her technique as a forehand defensive style. This essentially means that her job is to stay more consistent with how she is hitting, not really focusing on gaining power in how she hits but on acting as a block against the opponents. In comparison, I define my style as backhand offensive with a large focus on powerful swings and less on blocking shots.
This trend can also be seen in a variety of different sports and competition levels as much of it is based on how a person develops athletically. There are a lot of different factors that play into athletic development, whether that be individually or as a team. When looking at siblings specifically, there was actually some research conducted specifically on twin athlete teams.
For example the journal article “Seeing Double” references the many different factors that can impact the effectiveness of a sibling team. This could be things like the age gaps between the two players or their emotional connection. All these factors impact the ability of the siblings to relate to each other. Within “Seeing Double,” it stated that “...in comparison to non-siblings, the emotional bond related to closeness in familial age is related to how the siblings are able to problem solve, communicate, and empathize with each other.” This bond relates to an ability to understand your partner and work effectively as a team, which helps enhance team performance.
If you’ve ever trained for something, which I’m sure you have at some point or another, you would know it is not always going to be sunshine and rainbows. Whatever it is you are working for it is going to take a lot of time and effort and can be very physically and emotionally draining. In training with a sibling, they are going through the exact same thing you are, which can often lead to an added layer of support. There are many times Tierney and I leaned on each other for support during matches. We even developed certain hand movements that mean things like “bad call” or who to aim for to communicate with each other non-verbally. It really is the little things that make a difference in times of stress.
Tierney and I ended up playing varsity tennis all four years of high school, before we were eventually recruited to play for Gettysburg College and Shippensburg University, respectively. While we had trained to be each other’s permanent doubles partners, that idea did not account for us going to different schools. While we may not play doubles with each other much anymore, we still always enjoy the chances we do get to play with or against each other.