COLUMBIA — Before games, the Rock Bridge High School volleyball players line up in an L-shape at the corner of the court, shoulder to shoulder. Sophomore Audrey Holt yells, “Roll call,” and the players state their last names one after the other. The team refers to it as “checking in.”
As the names are stated, two players, standing on opposite sides of the L, say the same name, “Cheadle.”
During pregame warmups, the two girls are rarely together. You won’t find them partnered up, spiking the ball back and forth or standing together chatting. Often, they are so far apart that they aren’t even in the same rotation when the team does group drills.
Except for their names, you wouldn’t even know they were related.
As the game nears and the players line up to be announced, the similarities start to add up. The Cheadles stand side by side. One wears No. 5, the other No. 6. They both are 6 feet 1 inch tall and are sophomores. And when their rhyming names, Chayla and Kayla, are announced, it all comes together.
Chayla and Kayla Cheadle are twins.
Although they are close, their mother, Cheryl Cheadle, said her daughters are like any other siblings because they are fraternal, rather than identical, twins. She said that since they don’t look alike, her daughters have always tried to emphasize their distinctions.
“We’re not as close as most twins would be,” Kayla Cheadle said. “It depends on the day sometimes.”
It’s hard for the sisters to get too far from each other most days because their lives are so intertwined, especially in sports.
In addition to volleyball, they play basketball for Rock Bridge, and they have been playing sports together for as long as they can remember. Outside of Bruins sports, Chayla and Kayla Cheadle also play on the same club volleyball and basketball teams. They have ran track, done karate and even played on a boys baseball team together.
Chayla and Kayla Cheadle celebrate each other’s successes on the court rather than getting jealous. They said they are competitive with each other and push each other to be their best.
In an Oct. 4 match against Francis Howell Central, Kayla Cheadle had a powerful kill that resulted in loud cheers from all her teammates and the home crowd. Chayla Cheadle was on the bench at the time clapping with a big smile across her face.
Later in the game, both girls were blocking at the net. The opposing team served a ball right to them, and Chayla knocked it down for a Rock Bridge point. Kayla Cheadle immediately put her hands on her sister’s shoulders and gave her a light shake. “That was mine!” she said jokingly. The twins led the team in kills in the Bruins' victory that night.
Despite their attempts to separate themselves, the girls admitted that they really do depend on each other, particularly on the court.
“We can kind of read each other’s mind,” Chayla Cheadle said. “Like in basketball, I know I can just throw a pass and she’ll be there.”
“For volleyball, if I make a mistake, she’s there to encourage me,” Kayla Cheadle added.
Bruins coach Tatum Anderson said that she notices how the girls rely on each other, even though it is often subtle.
“The bond they have between them is one of those unspoken ones,” Anderson said. "They can glance at each other and make eye contact during a tough situation on the court, and you can see the one that may be struggling relax and take a deep breath, as she knows the other trusts her."
"It’s a special thing to be able to share the court and athletic experience with your sister,” Anderson said.
Within their family, the twins share another experience that brings them closer on a much deeper level than sports.
“We make it a point as a family every morning that we have a family prayer before we go out,” Cheryl Cheadle said. “That’s just a must.”
Their mother emphasizes the importance of making time for spiritual life along with everything else they are involved in, and Chayla and Kayla Cheadle agree. Their mother sends them devotional text messages every morning. It’s something the twins say encourages them throughout their day and on the court when they are playing sports.
Chayla Cheadle said she always says a prayer before her games. “It helps me,” she said.
The message Cheryl Cheadle sent to her daughters Tuesday encouraged the girls to take risks and not be afraid of failing. It’s a concept that correlates with their favorite Bible verse, Philippians 4:13.
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” Kayla Cheadle recited.
Being together both on and off the court is something Chayla and Kayla Cheadle have come to accept as they have gotten older. The fact of the matter is that they’re twins and there’s no way around it.
"If I wasn’t a twin, it would be way different,” Chayla Cheadle said. “I don’t know what I would do.”