Twin athletes motivate one another to improve

Imagine the joy a Yale coach feels upon finding a recruit who can perform both on the court and in the classroom.

Now double it.

Jess Notebaert/Contributing Photographer
Julia Mailander ’10, left, says she senses an “on-court connection” with twin Lydia Mailander ’10, who says she also feels an “unspoken competition.”
Jess Notebaert
Jess Notebaert/Contributing Photographer Julia Mailander ’10, left, says she senses an “on-court connection” with twin Lydia Mailander ’10, who says she also feels an “unspoken competition.”

A surprising number of Yale sports teams boast a twin presence on their roster — from the volleyball team’s Lydia and Julia Mailander ’10 to the men’s basketball team’s Nick and Caleb Holmes ’08. While several twins said competition between the pairs drives their desire to be better players, most insisted that their closeness and experience playing together contribute to their own success and the success of their respective teams.

One of the more high-profile pairs, Larry and Bobby Abare ’09 — twin all-stars anchoring the defense on the football team — said they push each other to improve.

“I feel as though whenever you have a close bond with any teammate, that’s how much harder, how much more you want to win,” Larry Abare said. “Not just for yourself but for them, and for your team. I think that’s one of the reasons we’ve had success this year and last year at Yale — because the team enjoys playing with each other and being around each other.”

Football head coach Jack Siedlecki said he thinks the Abares raise the entire defense’s level of play when they are on the field together.

“They definitely feed off of each other’s enthusiasm on the field, and our other defensive players feed off their enthusiasm,” he said. “They both play with tremendous passion and have a strong desire to win.”

The competitive nature and contagious personalities were an Abare trademark before Bobby and Larry enrolled at Yale, Siedlecki said. He said he became interested in recruiting both brothers after they led Acton-Boxborough High School to a 50-0 record in their four years in Massachusetts.

The Abares are not the only twins who complement one another’s performance. Basketball head coach James Jones said he sees the Holmes twins’ chemistry from the sidelines. After watching Caleb and Nick compete in the Ivy League for three years, Jones said he thinks the twins “are extensions of each other on the court.”

Julia Mailander said she can sense an on-court connection with her sister that allows each to anticipate the other’s plays.

“I know that I trust her with absolutely everything and that we read each other very well,” she said. “I don’t think it is an unusual connection, more like when really old married couples know exactly what each other is thinking … That type and depth of connection is rare in people of our age.”

Other players on teams with twins said having two athletes who have played together their entire lives is beneficial to the cohesion of the team.

Cory Palmer ’10, an offensive lineman on the football team, said he thinks the friendly one-upmanship of the Abare twins “raises the energy” of the other players. But starting offensive tackle Darius Dale ’09 said he thinks this phenomenon has less to do with the fact that the twins are twins than with the talent and drive they bring as football players.

“There’s nothing intrinsically special about playing with twins, but when those twins are of the caliber of Larry and Bobby, it becomes something special,” Dale said.

Both fans and players said twins’ individual talent should not be overshadowed by their joint successes.

After suffering a season-ending injury to his left knee against Cornell on Sept. 22, Larry Abare — who in 2006 tied with Bobby for the team lead in solo tackles — will have to root for the defense from the sidelines. Even so, the Bobby-anchored defense has surrendered 10 or fewer points in regulation in each of its last three games.

But some twins said they think their individuality is lost in the hype of playing with their counterparts. Lydia Mailander said she feels as if there is a constant “unspoken comparison” with her sister among those who watch them play.

While most talk about the Holmes’ presence is positive, the brothers agreed that constant references to them as a pair can be frustrating.

“It’s kind of annoying that we were always talked about as, like, the twins and not as individual players,” Caleb Holmes said.

Football fan Carl Johnson ’10 said he recognizes that having the Abares on the same Division-I football team is unusual. But Johnson said he does not think the twins’ presence on the field enhances the average spectator’s experience.

“I just see Bobby and Larry as two individuals on the team when they’re on the field,” he said.

Still, coaches and teammates said the twins on their teams have raised the level of play — and the football and volleyball teams are both in the midst of Ivy League title races this year.

Not only are the twins complements to each other on the field during a game or in practice, Siedlecki said they are also “teammates for life.”

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