Why We Encouraged Our Twins to Play Different Sports

With twins, not everything has to be the same.

twins playing different sports
Twins playing different sports. rubberball / Getty Images

One of the first things that you learn as a parent of twins is that life is easier when you keep your babies on the same schedule. Feed them at the same time, bathe them together, and (hopefully) put them to bed so they’ll sleep simultaneously. It seems like a good method for managing multiples and it probably served as a good system for several years. Well, things change as twins grow up. So it may seem crazy that we intentionally and purposefully generated separate -- and often conflicting -- schedules for our twins by encouraging them to play different sports.

Modern parenting often feels like a whirlwind of schedules and logistics; opportunities abound for kids to get involved in activities, lessons, clubs, and sports. For parents of twins, the  involvement is doubled, with two same-age kids pursuing interests. Some twins have similar interests and naturally drift towards shared experiences. But others are different and want to explore their own hobbies.

We intentionally encouraged our twin girls to pursue different paths. In doing so, we doubled our family’s commitments -- of time, money, and carpool commuting -- and at the same time, divided oursevles in half in trying to meet the commitments. If twin parents could have a superpower, it would be to the ability to be in two places at the same time! Unfortunately, in the meantime, we had to make do with a divide-and-conquer approach to attending games and events.

There was a method behind our madness.

It certainly would have been easier to stick with the same activities. In fact, that’s how we started out. As preschoolers, they played together on a soccer team, T-ball team, and joined the same Girl Scout Daisy troop. But in early elementary school, when they were placed in separate classes, things started to diverge.

One wanted to try Irish dancing and karate, and the other wanted to follow friends to basketball and art classes. While there was still some overlap, these opportunities seemed like a natural progression into individuality. By high school they had chosen distinctly different paths, with one choosing volleyball and one rowing crew.

Here are four reasons why we encouraged our twins to play different sports.

It allowed them to explore their own interests and identity.

So much of twins’ experiences are shared growing up. Even before birth, they share space in the womb. They share their parents time and attention, share toys and sometimes clothing, and may even share a room. Becasue they share so much, we felt it was beneficial for them to have some separate, non-shared experiences, and sports allowed them to do so.

Participating in different sports allowed them to distinguish themselves and establish an identity in addition to simply being known as “the twins.” While they enjoyed their twinship and their shared activities, they also felt fulfilled by the friendships and achievements they developed on their own.


It helped them perform better. 

One thing that my twins enjoyed together was competing on the swim team at our community pool. They’ve loved the water since they were babies, and enjoyed attending practice with all their friends. Swimming seemed like a great sport for them, until they were placed to swim against each other in the same heat in the same event. They were so distracted by whether their twin was beating them, that neither swam efficiently. 

Observing this, we realized how being in the same sport could be a distraction for twins. Of course, truly successful competitors have to learn how to tune out distraction to be successful, and ultimately that’s a life lesson that twins have to learn. And there’s certainly a case to be made that competing against a twin can motivate an athlete to success. But, when you’re talking about younger kids who are just learning a sport, having a twin competing in the next lane may be detrimental rather than encouraging. 

Without the distraction of their twin, the playing field (pardon the pun) was leveled for our daughters. They could compete as themselves, and not just against their twin. 

It reduced conflict and comparison.

While being in separate activities certainly presented some challenges and conflicts (events taking place in different cities but at the same time, overlapping practice times, carpool conundrums), it also greatly reduced the conflict between our twin girls.  Like in any relationship, too much time together can result in irritability and tension. But their separate activities gave them individual outlets, making their time together just a bit more peaceful. 

A lof of the conflict is a result of constant comparison. Twins are naturally compared in everything they do. As much as parents might try to prevent it, the outside world sees them as a set, and holds everything relative. Pursuing different sports gave them a break from the comparison. 

It’s twice as much fun!

It’s one of those things that you don’t miss until it’s gone. With busy kids, the calendar fills up pretty quickly. All the games and practices and lessons consume Mom and Dad as much as the kids. In the midst of it, you may be wishing you were somewhere else, but it really is a lot of fun. The long hours spent at tournaments and competitions builds relationships with other families. With two sports, that’s a double does of camaraderie and twice as many friends. 

And there’s something really special about supporting your child as they compete or perform. The pride in their achievement is a high that can’t be matched. Opportunities abound for precious interaction with an otherwise disengaged teenage when you’re driving them to and from practice every day. The excitement of a win -- and even the devastation of a loss -- generate meaningful moments that will be sealed forever in memory.

We would have enjoyed the experience if our twins had played in the same sport. But being able to watch and cheer them on individually simply made for twice as much fun, and double the memories.

Here are some tips about encouraging twins in sports:

  • If you can’t swing two sports, look for activities where they can achieve individually within the same arena (such as track or swimming where they can compete in different events). 
  • Or consider a team setting where their twinship plays to their advantage.
  • Allow your multiples to be individuals and true to themselves. They shouldn’t feel they have to do a sport or activity simiply because their twin does.
  • Encourage twins to support each other in their individual efforts. They can be each other’s biggest fans!

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