It’s hard enough for an individual to compete with their fellow athletes and strive to be the best on the team, especially because of how extremely competitive our society has become even from a young age. But to compete with your sibling is a whole other story.
In fact, there are a set of twins on the women’s rowing team and a set of brothers from the men’s rowing team that have had to withstand another layer of competitiveness than most athletes.
Twins Amanda and Danielle McKenna’17 have been on the same women’s rowing team for four years at Fairfield University and for these sisters, it has been an advantage because not only are they their biggest support system, but they’re also each other’s biggest competition.
“Being each other's alarm clocks and personal cheerleaders is something that I wouldn't change for the world,” Danielle said.
While they hold different positions on the team, Danielle being a starboard and Amanda being a port, they continue to challenge and comfort each other at the same time, especially when they’re out on the water during a race or in the weight room.
“She always been there to push me to be the best I can be,” Amanda said.
As for brothers Nick Greco’17 and Jordan Greco’19, Nick believes that having Jordan on the same team can present some challenges, especially when it comes to striving to be a role model for his younger brother and for his teammates. Sometimes, the brothers will have moments when they become frustrated with each other, which can sometimes affect the team dynamic.
“Having my sibling on the same team as me is a rather interesting dynamic. It is difficult to be an older brother as well as an veteran on the team as our relationship with us as brothers often takes the forefront,” Nick said.
Even the assistant coach for women’s rowing, Jillian Bungard, understands some of the difficulties that come along with competing with a sibling.
“Having a sister on the team potentially has many pluses and minuses. I know that spending an extended amount of time with my siblings can cause stress and other issues. Either Amanda and Danielle don't have many issues or they hide it very well as I haven't experienced any issues between them,” she said.
The way that the McKenna sisters ended up on the same team in the first place was during orientation when head coach Dave Patterson approached Danielle and signed up and also put Amanda’s name on the list. After that, they became walk ons and tackled their freshmen year together.
“I was a little hesitant all summer leading up to freshman year, but decided to give in a try once school started in September,” Amanda said.
As for Danielle, she wanted to row and continue to be an athlete after high school and wanted her sister to also have a fulfilling experience at Fairfield. “I knew I wanted to be a part of something bigger once I started at Fairfield. Coach Dave sent an email after one of the admitted student questionnaires. I followed up with him and signed us both up. I got Amanda out of her 8 a.m. and the rest has been history,” she said.
Of course, nothing is always perfect. Though they have never had to fight for the same seat in a boat because of the fact that they row on two different sides, there are some moments when being on the team brings some tension to the table.
Amanda explains, “Sometime's there's tension when we have a piece on the ergometer that's being recorded, but only because we want to be faster than the other.”
Jordan, who has been rowing since his senior year of high school, believes that having Nick on the team at Fairfield feels natural since they are together every morning just like at home and have always been competitive with each other since they have always worked the same jobs and went to the same camps.
“I think it has been an advantage for us because rowing is as mentally draining as it is physically, and there is a comfort in knowing that your brother is pushing through the same exhaustion with you,” Jordan said.
However, there are times when being with your brother or sister so often can lead to going a little crazy, especially for Jordan and Nick since they played the same sports growing up and did not hold the same positions until being on the rowing team.
Jordan stated, “There are times that we are at each other's throats. Our teams will often joke about how much we would argue at practice. We have always been competitive as siblings but when we argue it is often just sibling bickering.”
In the grand scheme of things, similarly to Amanda and Danielle, Nick and Jordan just want to do their best and there is always going to be some level of competition to be faster and stronger than the other.
Another important aspect for these sisters and brothers is that they are able to keep each other in check in terms of their athletic, academic, and social priorities because of undertaking the balancing act of being athletes and students at Fairfield.
Bungard said, “Coaching siblings is something I consider to be special. I missed rowing with my sister by a year and I think that having that unconditional support of a family member, especially a twin, is really important. Rowing is a very difficult and demanding sport to participate in for all four years of college, so a support system is necessary.”
Amanda and Danielle as individual athletes and as twins have certainly proved themselves by contributing to the team’s successful season. In fact, they are both in the top boats and will be competing together in the MAAC conference championships on May 12th on Lake Mercer in West Windsor, New Jersey.
Nonetheless, nothing will ever change the sibling rivalry and although sometimes siblings can be jealous of each other every once an a while, a little rivalry can actually make siblings better athletes in the end and this is evident through the McKenna sisters and the Greco brothers.