Clear Creek volleyball coach Karin Thomsen has coached siblings and relatives before, but coaching three sets at once has been extraordinary, she said.
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“We’ve had (players who were related) before, but not like this,” she said.
This year, the varsity team has three sets of sisters — twins Maxine and Isabel Inman, Olivia and Pressley King, and Samantha and Zoey Zebroski. The Inmans’ cousin, Skylah Inman, is also on the team.
“It’s funny how half our team is all related,” Maxine said.
While all seven players described a mix of encouragement and frustration about sharing the court with their relatives, each family’s experience was unique.
Seniors Isabel and Maxine, for instance, have been playing together since seventh grade, and said they used to have problems when they were in middle school. They treated each other more like sisters than teammates on the court, giving very blunt and frustrated feedback.
Now, though, the two said they've learned how to treat each other more like teammates whenever they’re playing.
“It’s easier to push each other (because we’re sisters),” Isabel said.
Maxine added that they’ve developed a “twin telepathy,” and overall communicate with each other better than with their fellow teammates.
Junior Skylah Inman, meanwhile, only joined the volleyball team last year. Her cousins have been very supportive, giving her advice and encouragement.
Because Maxine and Skylah are both middle blockers, they’re rarely on the court at the same time. But, Skylah said she has been learning to play alongside Isabel, who plays outside hitter.
While Thomsen was the main one who recruited her, Skylah said she probably wouldn’t have joined if her cousins and other friends hadn’t been on the team.
Meanwhile, senior Olivia and freshman Pressley King — who play libero and defensive specialist, respectively — have been trying to navigate the rough patches of their lone season together.
Playing similar positions can be a double-edged sword, Pressley explained. While they can ask each other for help receiving difficult serves, they also sometimes literally run into each other if they don’t communicate properly.
Before the season is over, they hope to become a dynamic duo in the back row.
The sisters aren’t used to spending this much time together. They said it was much easier before, when they had separate practices.
Likewise, junior Samantha and sophomore Zoey Zebroski have had their share of off-court disagreements.
The two have polar-opposite personalities, they described. Samantha isn’t very social and is more academically inclined, while Zoey is very social and less inclined toward academics.
“With our personalities, we could complete each other,” Samantha said. “But we have so many differences, that we don’t want to.”
While they generally don’t get along, the only exception has been sports. The sisters have played volleyball, softball, basketball and soccer together since Samantha was 6 years old.
“Sports is definitely the way we bond,” Samantha said, adding that it’s the only time the two are on the same page.
Because they’ve played together for so long, they know each other’s weaknesses and strengths, Zoey said. While her older sister has better speed and generally does well on offense, Zoey said she has better endurance and tends to play more defense.
The sisters, who play multiple positions in volleyball, can tell when the other starts overthinking, Zoey explained, and they can help each other snap out of it.
“That’s what makes us good players,” she continued.
While playing alongside a relative can be frustrating, the Kings and Zebroskis encouraged others in a similar situation to have fun.
“Take everything with a grain of salt,” Olivia said.
Pressley added: “You’ll get used to it.”
Samantha pointed out that playing with a sibling or other relative means there’s always “at least one person on your side,” which is something every athlete needs.
“A sibling is the best teammate and best ally, because they think similarly to you,” Samantha continued. “ … They’re a buddy in your corner.”
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