Sibling rivalries make memories, and can leave a mark

As I was sitting in the stands at the Airline softball complex Tuesday evening, I looked down and noticed a scar on my arm. I hadn’t seen or thought about it in years but, for some reason, it was the first thing I noticed when I reached down to take a sip of my Coke.

The scar is so small, in fact, that it’s hard to find even if you’re looking for it. Why would I be noticing it now? I’m not into psychological stuff, but I think the surrounding circumstances played a part in it.

On this beautiful April evening, I was watching a softball game between Calvary Baptist Academy and Airline High School. Standing outside the dugout to my right was Tiffany Frazier Wood, the Lady Cavaliers’ head coach, and her assistant coach who happened to be her father, Greg Frazier. Outside the other dugout stood Brittany Frazier Smith, head coach for the Lady Vikings.

“That’s my Aunt Brittany,” a young, dark-haired girl said to me as she pointed to the opposite dugout. The resemblance was uncanny. Turns out I was talking to Rylann Wood, the soon-to-be three-year-old daughter of the Calvary coach.

For true local softball fans, the matchup was one for the ages. Frazier, who will be inducted into the Louisiana Softball Coaches Association Hall of Fame next month, is the proud father of both coaches and happens to be Tiffany’s assistant at Calvary. He moved to Calvary after a very successful coaching career at Southwood High School, where both of his daughters played for him.

At Southwood, Tiffany played pitcher and first base while Brittany played pitcher and shortstop. “I loved playing pitcher and she loved playing shortstop,” says Tiffany. “Brittany threw harder but my mindset was better for pitching.”

Who was the better pitcher? “Probably me,” says the Calvary coach.

Like their father did, the sisters are enjoying very successful head coaching careers. Tiffany led Calvary to the Class 2A state title in 2016, the Division III title in 2017, and the Division IV title in 2021 while Brittany took Airline all the way to the championship game of Class 5A last year.

It was the sibling rivalry playing out in front of me that drew my attention to the almost-invisible scar on my arm. I can’t tell you exactly how it happened because it happened so long ago (at least 40 years), but I can tell you it was my brother’s fault.

In all of our years growing up, my younger brother and I were never able to finish a complete game of anything. Every ping-pong game was interrupted by his throwing the paddle at me. I can show you the exact court at Pierremont Oaks from which I was running when his tennis racket hit me in the back.

To be honest, I can’t even remember the circumstances surrounding the scar on my arm. I seem to remember being hit by a piece to a chess set (funny thing, we never learned how to play chess). My brother, 20 months my junior, doesn’t remember the rivalry exactly as I do. He can recall our being in the front yard on Cumberland Drive in full football pads, going one-on-one.

Did all siblings behave as we did? Is sibling rivalry a normal occurrence? While it can turn into a “disorder” if it gets out of hand, a type of competition or animosity among siblings – whether blood-related or not – is perfectly normal. (Although I consider the heated competition between my brother and me was more “disorderly” than “normal.”)

According to scientific research, sibling rivalry is “most common with brothers and sisters of the same sex and when children are close in age, less than two years apart.” My brother and I fit the category of “less than two years apart,” while the Frazier sisters meet both – sisters who are also less than two years apart.

I figured they would be experts on the subject. Turns out that, while their competition never reached the fever pitch I enjoyed with my sibling, they, too, remember things a little differently after all those years.

“We couldn’t get along well enough to throw (the softball) together,” Wood says with a laugh. “If I overthrew it, she would get mad and roll it back to me. It never got physical, she would just get mad and walk off.”

Smith doesn’t recall it happening exactly that way. “I don’t remember rolling it back, but that sounds like me. So, it’s probably true.”

No throwing the ball or their gloves at each other. Just a friendly competition that the two sisters enjoy to this day. “We’ve always been really close,” says Tiffany, who points out that the rival coaches are often sharing information. “Our dad didn’t allow us to argue very much.”

In fact, their father instilled in them the desire to help each other succeed – even if they are on opposite sides of the diamond. Which happens to be easier on the sisters than it is on dad.

Minutes after Calvary defeated Airline 13-4 Tuesday night, Frazier admitted it was “no fun” helping one daughter coach against the other.

“His dream is that he wins the lottery, and we can all coach together,” says Smith.

If that happens, one thing is for sure – they’ll field an incredible team.

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