For hours on end this summer, Kate and Jess English would train and condition together to get ready for the Ledyard girls soccer season.
This would not seem odd seeing they live in the same household. But these are odd times – dealing with a pandemic – so teams in all of the fall sports had to condition in the same cohort of 10 people this summer to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus.
Kate and Jess were in the same cohort. After doing the same conditioning together for hours outdoors, some more of it would continue indoors after it got dark outside. That competitive nature between the two sisters growing up only helped matters when they had to train together for so long.
“When we were younger we really just wanted to beat each other no matter what but now we train together and try to help each other get better,” sophomore Jess English said. “So having that aspect of always having someone to try and beat actually drives me to do better sometimes because if I see she practiced for one hour, I will want to practice for two and just get that edge up on her. So us being so competitive with each other actually makes us better.”
The English sisters are one of several sibling combinations for the Ledyard soccer programs. In fact, there are nine combined between the two teams (see chart), including two that have one sibling on each team.
“Each year that I have been coaching there has always been a sibling element,” Ledyard girls soccer coach Emily Lehet said. “I think at Ledyard, it isn’t overly unique because being a multi-sport athlete is a big thing. I know that multiple of the sisters on the team also run track and play lacrosse. This year, there seems to be a lot of overlap between the boys’ and girls’ teams which is awesome. I think it is important for the programs to support each other and when there is that familial connection, it happens naturally.”
Sibling combos are not uncommon, especially in the Eastern Connecticut Conference. In 2018, GameTimeCT.com did a story on four sibling combinations at Plainfield. Those sisters helped lead the Panthers to back-to-back appearances in the Class M state finals in 2018 and 2019 and the ECC tournament title last season.
Both the boys and girls sibling sets at Ledyard played on soccer teams together for years before coming to the high school. Kate English calls it “her second family.”
Boys coach Bill Glenney has had a long line of siblings play for him in his time coaching at Ledyard but never as many as right now.
“I have had a ton of brothers over the years,” Glenney said. “I have had years where I have had a Hutchins boy, a Hughes boy, an Esposito boy, and when the last one goes through. it’s always kind of sad for me. I am losing a kid but also losing a family that has been part of Ledyard soccer for a long time. But having so many combos this year is certainly the most.”
Glenney finds many advantages of having siblings on the team, including promoting the continuity of program.
“I think kids learn expectations of the program and team. You aren’t just getting brothers but getting families and when mom/dad are familiar with things they are comfortable with what to expect,” he said. “This is especially important early in the season when the older kids can talk to the younger kids/brothers to let them know that things get easier and that the hard preseason practices don’t last all year. I think kids also become excited to follow their brothers up the ladder from youth soccer to JV to varsity.
“That goal of putting on that varsity jersey and playing under the lights is something that has been an important part of the Ledyard soccer program since even before I was playing for Ledyard.”
Junior midfielder Nick Washington and his brother, sophomore defender Chris, are constantly pushing each other, not just on the soccer field but anywhere there is the possibility for competition.
“We are super-competitive with each other and are extremely cocky. That competitiveness comes out in soccer and makes us work harder in practices and games,” Nick Washington said. “We would play all the sports video games like Madden, FIFA and NBA 2k. We would talk trash the whole time to each other and then when one of us won (normally me) I would rub it in his face because I’m always better than him.”
The Washington boys first played soccer on the same team when they were 10 and 9 but also played football together when they were 13 and 12.
Not only did the English sisters play premier soccer for the Doca Futebol Academy growing up, they also played youth lacrosse together. The hope is to have one more year of both indoor track during Ledyard’s high school winter season and lacrosse next spring.
Jess mentioned how it “was very scary” entering the Colonels’ program as a freshman, but having Kate come through first very much helped matters.
“Kate was able to step in the potholes before I walked on the road, so she was able to tell me what to look out for,” Jess said.
But as both English sisters admit, it has been competitive between the two.
“From playing a fun game of soccer in the backyard to walking down the stairs, we always find a way to make anything a competition,” Kate English said. “For my sister and I, our competitive sides have always worked to our benefit. We are more inclined to perform better or stay longer after practice to get in more touches so we could one up each other. In the end all the extra training and effort put into trying to be the better sister led to us becoming better players and better athletes.”
Kate has also learned some of the nuances of being an offensive-minded player from Jess. That has been able to help her improve as a sweeper for the Colonels.
The two also got to experience an ECC soccer championship in 2019: Ledyard defeated Montville in the conference’s Division II championship final.
“That’s an opportunity that does not come around often, so it made it even better that we both could experience it together,” Jess said.
Having four sets of sisters on the team has helped with holding one another accountable, according to Lehet.
“I think the girls are able to hold each other accountable in practice much more easily with so many sisters on the team,” Lehet said. They know how to call each other out and how to listen to the feedback without taking it personally.”
|Ledyard Soccer Siblings|