Twins hardened by competitive fire

Whether it's sports, grades or board games, Newbys hate losing to each other

Posted: Tuesday, December 04, 2001

When you have two older brothers, chances are you're going to grow up a competitive person.

Factor an identical twin brother into the mix, and that competitive drive can reach a whole new level.

"I coached their two older brothers, and they both had that competitive edge, that will to succeed. These two have brought it to another level," said Soldotna High School hockey coach Pat Nolden of the members of the Newby family he has on the Stars current roster, seniors Eric and David.

"Academically and athletically, they're two of the best students that have been through Soldotna High School. The one riding feature of those two is their competitiveness. They will compete for grades, and anything that has to do with athletics, to the bitter end. That drive does make them so much better in the athletic arena and the academic arena."

That David and Eric have both managed to make it to their senior year as members of the Soldotna hockey team and the American Legion Post 20 Twins baseball team has been a testament to their competitive drive.

Both Eric and David have had to overcome spondylosis, a painful back condition caused by stress fractures to the brothers' L-5 vertebrae. The condition has caused both to miss full seasons of sports since they started high school, and the conditioning they do between baseball and hockey seasons has forced them to cut other sports, like football and soccer, from their list of activities.

"My back feels great now, but I was about to the point where I was going to quit sports because of waking up with the pain," David said.

"It's tough. You want to do things, go out and compete, but it's hard to move," Eric said.

Eric and David's mother, Tammy, said she was surprised to see her sons stick with athletics as they endured the worst of their back pain. The family visited doctors in Anchorage as well as Outside looking for solutions, which included surgery to fuse the vertebrae in the back in order to alleviate the pain.

"They're so competitive, and they were too young to tell them they had to give it up," Tammy said.

Things have turned out for the better without any surgeries. Eric and David each wear back braces when they play, and David said that a technique called Rolfing, a method of manipulating the muscles and connective tissue of the body to relieve tension and pressure, has dramatically improved his condition.

Watching Eric and David dish out and take the hits on the ice, it's obvious that the backs are fine.

"On the blue line, David is one of the best in the state," Nolden said. "At forward, Eric is one of the best in the state. I'm elated that they're back and they've brought their competitive fervor to the team."

Eric said that moving to forward from defense fits his personality.

"I just don't like sitting back," Eric said. "I like to have the puck and the opportunity to move it down in the other end."

Davis said he's gotten used to the fact that Eric's name will show up more often in the game reports.

"Something I've gotten used to is that I'm not going to score as many goals," David said.

Still, quite a few of Eric's goals have David listed for the assist.

That competitive fervor first started for Eric and David at age 3 or 4 after seeing their older brothers, Tim and Joey, lace up the skates. Baseball, a love passed on from their father, Jim, started at age 5 or 6.

Since then, virtually every activity has become a competition for the brothers -- sports, board games, billiards -- the built-in playmate also has been a built-in opponent.

"They definitely keep each other in line," Tammy said.

"Whenever one of us starts working harder, the other's not going to let that happen," David said. "We're never satisfied with kicking back. We always want to be first in any races, or take a few extra swings or ground balls or whatever you can do to get ahead."

David and Eric always have been on the same team, something that has caused problems at times.

"We used to play defense together when we were little," David said. "When we got scored on, we'd get into an argument."

David said he did switch teams for one game during a little league season and got to pitch against his brother.

"He hit a line drive right at my shin," David said.

Despite the pain and the possibility of a broken bone, David said he managed to crawl after the ball and flip it to first for the out.

"He wasn't going to get on base on me," David said.

When that competitive drive can be harnessed in the same lineup, the results are impressive. Eric and David were a devastating tandem in the Twins lineup. If one got one base, an RBI was almost sure to follow.

"If he gets a hit, I'm going to get a hit," David said. "I don't want to have him on base and me headed back to the dugout."

The competition has compelled Eric and David to excel in the classroom. David sports a 4.0 grade point average while Eric has a 3.96.

"Sports and parents have a lot to do with our grades," David said. "When we came home from elementary school, our parents made us do our homework before we could go out and play."

The habit stuck, and Eric and David said they still take care of the books before heading out for practice.

David and Eric are hoping their athletic talents will take them to the next level after graduation. Eric said he's hoping that his experience playing with the Midget A Alaska Wolves hockey team will help him land a stint in Junior A hockey and will lead to a college scholarship.

David said he plans to follow Joey to South Mountain College in Phoenix, Ariz., to play junior college baseball with the hopes of attracting attention from college scouts.

Tammy said that she thinks Eric and David will be just fine when they head in different directions next fall.

"I think it will be really hard on me to see them separate and do other things," Tammy said. "I think they'll still be really close and stay in contact.

"I feel they'll be fine whatever they do. They've got good heads on their shoulders and a lot of common sense, but it's going to be hard to stay in Alaska when they're all gone."

There's still plenty of high school hockey left to play, and plenty of trips to arenas around the state. The Stars have aspirations of competing for a state title, and just might have the horses to do it this year.

"We've got a really good team. We feel like we have good chance to go far," Eric said.

"Hopefully, this year will end up better than the last one," David said. "We're not looking ahead. We're taking it one game at a time."

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