In the world of athletics, competitors often view teammates as brothers or sisters — people who work alongside each other and stick together through good times and bad. This is no different at Wheaton, where athletes share an even stronger bond as brothers and sisters in Christ. However, some share even more in common than the name they wear on the front of their jerseys. These groups of athletes from all different sports are united with the same last name and competitive drive to excel in Wheaton athletics.
For the Aiellos, Clarks, Bergs, Dansdills and Thorntons, sports are simply a way of life that have shaped each of their relationships with their siblings. They all grew up playing sports from a young age, although some started with very different interests than they have now. Adam Dansdill, a senior on the Thunder football team, and his sister Maggie, a sophomore member of the women’s basketball and track teams, spent their early years swimming before transitioning into almost every other sport they could play. While they now cheer each other on during their respective seasons, they experience the full brunt of family competitiveness in games of driveway basketball.
“There’s rivalry if we’re playing sports together,” Dansdill explained. “There’s a basketball hoop in our driveway and sibling basketball games would always get intense.”
Jon and David Clark, a senior and junior on the men’s soccer team, have competed together for most of their lives. Childhood competitions in sports, video games and who could eat their dinner the fastest have now translated into a mutual relationship of pushing each other to get better on the field. Jon explained how playing together for many years has increased their bond within the context of the team.
“When your friends and brothers are all on the team together,” he said, “it’s people you can just be around and have fun with.”
There’s no doubt that family has influenced many of these students’ trajectory from rec league players to Wheaton Thunder athletes. Wrestlers David, Steve and Frank Aiello followed their parents’ example in attending Wheaton. As twins, the Aiellos committed to wrestle as somewhat of a package deal. Now, with a younger brother on the team as well, Frank explained that wrestling has changed its meaning.
“(It’s now) a lot of encouragement, always having a workout partner and having someone to hold you accountable,” he said.
The Thornton sisters, Katie is a senior softball player and Kelly is a freshman volleyball and basketball player, also followed a long legacy of family members who were Wheaton athletes. Like many other younger siblings, Kelly initially hesitated to follow in the footsteps of the family members who had gone before her.
“Everyone assumed that I was going to go Wheaton and that really frustrated me. I almost wanted to prove people wrong,” she explained. “But other doors closed in order to get here and it worked really well.”
Now, as a two-sport varsity athlete, Kelly appreciates getting to share a year at Wheaton with her older sister and learns something new every day from her.
A sophomore on the women’s basketball team, Jennifer Berg also felt the desire to do something different from her older brother Michael, a senior basketball player, when looking at colleges. After deciding to come to Wheaton anyways, she has loved getting to share her experiences with her brother.
Michael reciprocated these feelings and explained, “These years have been a time to get to know Jenn as one of my best friends and see her make her own life.”
As older siblings now prepare to graduate and hang up their jerseys for good, they treasure the experiences they have shared on and off the field with their siblings. In turn, the younger siblings have enjoyed the opportunity to talk about the positives and negatives of the season with people who have already been in those situations. On both sides, Wheaton athletes have found their best competitors and encouragers on the same team — their family.