When Only One Twin Makes the Team

Question of the Week: Hello, I read your articles online about twin discrimination, and I’m wondering if you could provide insight on this. My nine-year-old twin boys both play the same sports. Recently, both tried out for a travel baseball team for next year’s season. We learned last night that one twin would make it; the other would not. Both are excellent in their own areas on the field. Do you really let one participate and be on the team but not the other? At this young age, how can you make the one who didn’t make the team feel as though he’s good enough? Wouldn’t he give up and not want to try as hard? Is it fair to him to have him spend his summer next year sitting in the risers at weekend tournaments? Wouldn’t it be a continuous put down and struggle for him as he watches his brother play on the team? Do I tell the coach, no thank you, and just let the boys continue with rec baseball?
—K.D.

Answer: No doubt this is a tough one and no one would blame you if you told the coach no. But just to play devil’s advocate—and because you asked—what about the son who did succeed in making the team? I noticed that your question solely focused on the son who didn’t make the team but there was no mention of your other son and his great accomplishment. What about him? He’s obviously gifted in the sport. Shouldn’t he be encouraged and supported, too? Why should he lose out just because he was born a twin?Fraternal twins boys dressed in soccer uniforms.

This is life with twins, and it’s just the beginning. This is going to continue to happen throughout your twins’ lives. Whether it’s making the team, getting a part in the school play, getting into a choice university, landing a plum job—one twin is bound to out perform the other twin. So how long do you continue to say no? How long do you continue to shield the one who didn’t succeed? At what age does it become OK to try to teach him that life isn’t always fair, and that it’s OK that he didn’t make the team, or get a part in the play? At what age? Age 10? Age 12?

And what do you think would happen if the twin who did made the team finds out years later that you had said “no” just because he was born a twin? My guess is that he may be resentful not just of you but of his brother, too. It’s bound to present a whole host of new problems for your sons’ relationship and their bond as they grow up. It could cause a rift between them as the twin who made the team may feel as though the other “held him back.”

Take a step back for a moment and consider your words: “…it would be a continuous put down….” Would it? I don’t think so. It’s not a put down. He just wasn’t good enough to make the team and that’s OK. Personally, I think kids are way more resilient than we give them credit for. Furthermore, I think it’s a parent’s attitude that sets the stage. If you’re positive; they’re positive. If you think he’s good enough; he thinks he’s good enough. If you project that it’s no big deal that he didn’t make the team; he’ll think it’s no big deal as well.

It might help you if you try not to think of your sons as twins. After all, how would you respond if they were two or three years apart and the same thing had happened? My guess is that you’d tell the one who didn’t make the team that there’s always next year, or that’s what going out for sports entails—sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. But that’s what’s so great about playing team sports—you learn to take the loss with grace and dignity and move on. What a wonderful life lesson, one that we need to teach more, not less.

It would take a change in attitude to take this on, however, as well as some logistical planning. I agree that it wouldn’t much fun for your twin who didn’t make the team to sit on the bleachers and watch his brother play baseball all summer long. Instead, find something else for him to do during tournaments and weekly practices as he deserves to find his own niche where he can shine on his own.

I hope this helps, and good luck with whichever way you choose to go.

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