Twins on the team


Aliza Bellas

The twins participate in warm up drills prior to their middle school girls basketball game.

Lily Rulnick and Aliza Bellas

Rock, paper, scissors, shoot.

Minutes before their upcoming basketball game, you are likely to find eight grade twins Rachel and Leah Fagin in an intense match of “Rock, Paper, Scissors,” to determine who will get to play as the center.

For seven years, the Fagin twins have ventured into many different sports together, playing basketball, volleyball and swimming on the same team. Currently, they are both members of the girls middle school basketball team.

“It’s a different experience,” Rachel said. “You always have someone you know you can talk about the game with at home and go over stuff with, and you also have a competitor, someone who pushes you to do your best.”

Both Leah and Rachel explained that since they both have different skill sets, they are constantly trying to get better at certain basketball techniques to reach or surpass their twin’s level.

“[Being on the same team] pushes me to do better and, you know, be better than she is,” Leah said.

The girls acknowledge that when they work together, their performance is stronger than when they play individually. When their opposing teams least expect it, they are able to utilize their well-practiced communication skills in order to pull out a secret weapon to throw off the other team. As the opposing team approaches the hoop, Leah and Rachel are able to work together and signal to each other what to do to stop the other team from scoring.

While being on the same team as your twin can have its fun moments, the Fagins expressed that there are many challenges to it as well.

“I also think it’s a bit difficult,” Rachel said. “Because when you try to get into these other things, and you’re trying to craft your own identity…and when you have another person who looks exactly like you doing the exact same thing, it’s a bit hard.”

Girls middle school basketball coach Brett Kugler has been coaching the twins since they joined the team in 6th grade. Although he recognizes that the girls have individual talents, he admits that he sometimes has trouble telling them apart.

“I think of them as individuals, but at the same time, in the motion of a fast-paced game, I might yell out the wrong name,” Kugler said.

Kugler has observed that the relationship between the two girls is different in practices than it is during games.

“In games, I see them very supportive of each other and always the first one to go over and give the other one a pat on the back,” Kugler said. “And then in practices, usually, I’ll have them competing against each other, and so it becomes a different dynamic.”

While the competitive energy pushes the twins to work harder to improve their games, it also leads to a lot of tension between the two sisters. It can be hard for the twins to feel like they have their own identity on the court since they are always being compared and associated with each other.

“You know that [there’s] going to be another person that’s better than you. And it’s almost like a barrier you try to break within yourself, but also beat the other person,” Rachel said. “Because in a way, we’re the exact same person.”

These challenges can be a lot to handle as Leah ended up leaving one of their basketball teams a few years back to play for another team.

“Something happened a few years ago where we were on the same team and I decided to go to a different team,” Leah said. “I think now I’d stay on the same team [as Rachel] but sometimes always being with your twin can be a lot and I think I’ve learned to focus more on what makes me a good defender and what I can do to improve.”

While this dynamic comes with its challenges, for the Fagin twins, it’s worth it. In the end, they appreciate having someone else on the team that they can always “rely on,” as well as somebody who can constantly help them improve.

“We are sisters off the court, teammates on the court,” Leah said.