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Brotherly bond on full display at World Lacrosse Championships

Jeremy (left) and Jason Noble helped lead Canada to the World Lacrosse Championship in Denver earlier this month. Photo: Stewart Begg/Canadian Lacrosse Association

Jeremy (left) and Jason Noble helped lead Canada to the World Lacrosse Championship in Denver earlier this month.

Jason Noble receives a pass just over the midfield line, uncharted territory for a defenseman. He looks up to a barrage of incoming defenders and immediately knows what they are thinking. A quick panic comes over Noble as he nears the goalie -- “Should I shoot it?”  he thinks to himself. A familiar voice commands, “Shoot it Jason!”

“Of course I knew it was Jer right away, so I trusted him and shot the ball,” he said, referring to his twin brother, Jeremy. “I didn’t score, but as soon as I heard his voice, I didn’t have to second guess myself.”

The twins, 22, are both professional lacrosse players who were members of the Canadian national lacrosse team that defeated the U.S. 8-5 in the gold match at the FIL World Lacrosse Championships in Denver earlier this month. “We just know what each other is going to do,” Jason Noble said. “If I’m running the ball down, Jer has an idea already what I’m going to do before I do it.”

Was it some kind of uncanny connection that enabled Jeremy to know Jason needed some guidance on offense? The connections between twins has been widely studied, yet there hasn't been any definitive proof of parapsychological connections. Still, the extraordinary connection, whatever it may be, between the Noble brothers benefits their team.

It’s a real advantage to have identical twins on a team,” says Nancy Segal, author of Born together-Reared Apart: The landmark Minnesota twin study. “They have a high psychological connection and can sense what one another is doing.” Though the Nobles are fraternal, Segal says that close brothers can imitate these elements as the length and amount of intimate time spent together from a young age will create a similar bond.

Another expert says that the innate bond between twins has more to do with knowledge acquired over time than science. “[Twins] are able to benefit from their close knowledge of each other’s performances, not in any psychic way, but in having so much time together training that they almost automatically spot playing patterns and have an instinctive knowledge of how their training partner might react,” says Ben Oakley, author of Podium: Sporting Champions' Paths to the Top.

On the 38 teams at the 2014 Worlds, there were 24 sets of brothers. Belgium and New Zealand led with three sets on each, with the latter including two trios of brothers. “Every game you’ll see a moment of connection,” says New Zealand offensive coordinator Gavin Higgins.

Chemistry is an integral part of a successful team and in a tournament like the FIL World Lacrosse Championships as some teams only have a few weeks to practice together before competition. Matt and Jon Bailey (ages 20 and 21, respectively) were chosen as non-passport holders from Canada on team China because their grandparents are from Zhongshan, China. The two have been a vital part of the team’s development and debut in the tournament. Jon, the team captain, spent a month in Shanghai before the tournament coaching the team he described as having a “deer-in-the-headlights” at the thought of participating in an international championship. Team China went 3-4 in the tournament and finished 33rd. The month apart for the two brothers wasn’t easy but fortunately did not adversely affect their on-the-field connection.

Through the two aren’t twins, they have a connection similar to the Nobles in terms of field-awareness of each other and a impenetrable channels of communication.

“As soon as I pick up the ball, I know I can look up field and know where he is,” says Jon Bailey. “We have a lingo we can communicate with. Many people will question what we say, but we know exactly what it means.”

Their mother, Donna, can attest to her sons’ secret language. “When the boys were 2 and 3 years old, we would sometimes have a hard time understanding what Jon wanted. Matt would always be able to “translate.”

Matt, a midfielder, cherishes the times he is able to play defense with Jon. “It’s fun because one of us is right-handed and the other is left so we’re usually right across from each other,” Matt said.

The same pattern follows with the Nobles as Jason and Jeremy have opposite strong hands. "Having a practice partner who is able to challenge and mirror your every move is a huge benefit to these siblings, says Brent Hoskins, who coaches the Baileys at Simon Fraser University outside of Vancouver. “Brothers are able to push each other in a way no other teammate really can. “Having a brother who is able to share in that journey, you couldn’t find a better fit.”

The Nobles were coincidentally provided with a set of bunk beds so they were able to share every waking moment of their journey together. The accommodations became a running joke among the 24 other players on Canada’s roster. “I don’t know how it worked out but we got to the dorms, we were rooming together and we had bunk beds in our room,” Jeremy said.

The Nobles brothers didn’t mind; it brought them closer even than they were growing up when they just shared a room with separate twin beds. Team Canada went 6-1 in the tournament, avenging an opening loss to the U.S. with an 8-5 victory in the championship game nine days later.

Jeremy finished with 10 goals and 10 assists, while Jason had five ground balls. “We know each other inside and out, more than any one [else] would,” says Jason. “I can predict what he is going to do [and] he knows how I am going to play him.”

Knowing that the twins can predict the each other’s next move begs the question of who would win in a one-on-one match-up. The Nobles have had the opportunity to play against each other in both college and professional matches but when asked who would win in a showdown, both shied away from the question.

“A lot of siblings compete against each other, but we don’t like to compete against each other," says Jeremy, "we like to compete with each other.”

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