Church sisters combined make “the super-player”

Kwantlen’s new dynamic basketball duo.

By Kimiya Shokoohi

It may be completely normal to expect two sisters to be competitive – call it sibling rivalry.

Sisters Brittney Church and Chelsea Church, new players on Kwantlen Polytechnic University’s women’s basketball team, are competitive, completely – just not with one another.

When it comes to sibling rivalry, “we’ve never been competitive,” Chelsea said.

The Church sisters are hoping to up Kwantlen's game. Kimiya Shokoohi / The Runner

“Or turned against each other or anything,” Brittney said.

“We get along. We hangout.”

Perhaps, it’s this relatively friendly edge that has made the sisters stand-out recruits for KPU basketball coaches. Brittney, 17, originally signed with the team early in the season. Chelsea, 19, was recruited a couple weeks ago.

The biggest recruiting difference, however, between the addition of each sister to the roster isn’t the timing, rather, the recruiter. Brittney had been signed by Matthew McKay, last season’s head coach, who was let go by KPU athletics department after a weak season. Chelsea was signed by McKay’s replacement, Dan Nayebzadeh.

“Once I got there I got to sit down with [Brittney] and talk to get some expectations – to make sure she was on the same page as us,” Nayebzadeh said. “And she was.”

“She was pretty obvious choice,” Nayebzadeh said. “She was a very, very good high school player. She would have been highly sought by any team.”

Brittney and Chelsea round-up the 12 players Nayebzadeh has added to his roster for the new season.

And come the new season, the sisters will be playing on the same court, at the same time, for the first time, since high school.

The near three-year break from their sister-teammate relationship won’t need dusting come time to lace-up for the KPU duo-ship. Basketball, they said, is simply second nature. The sisters have been playing together since they were ages nine and 11. In the school courtyard. At the local gym. In their backyard.

“Basketball has been in our lives since we were in the fourth grade, we don’t know anything else,” Chelsea said.

Basketball is a Church thing. Their father, Alan Church, a six-foot-six centre-forward played for Douglas College’s men’s basketball team in 1986.

A little under two decades later, his daughters are following in his varsity footsteps – Chelsea as forward, Brittney as shooting guard.

“We totally play different games,” Brittney said, stemming from their different positions on court. “She’s better at the things I can’t do.”

In part, the sisters said what’s built their effective partnership is their ability to capitalize on their individual skills by trusting the other to pick up in areas in which the former is less capable.

“If you combine us together,” Chelsea said, “we would be the super-player.”

It also goes past the blood – into the mind.

“We play really well together. We have that thing, were it’s like the other person knows what’s going through your mind,” Chelsea said.

“Twin telepathy,” Brittney said. “Even though we’re not twins.”

Sister telepathy, however, isn’t the reason Nayebzadeh praises the Church sisters’ addition to the new team.

“As far as being sisters, it’s not that important to the team,” Nayebzadeh said. “What’s important is that they’re both very mature girls.”

And relatively seasoned, solid players, he said.

Nayebzadeh did, however, ask Brittney about her relationship with Chelsea, Brittney said.

“When you have a family member on the team and you’re flipping out on each other on the court, it affects the game,” she said.

“But, the fact that we get along, helps us play better together as a group,” Chelsea said.

Are these sisters friendly, mature young women? Absolutely. Will they be kind to their opponents? Absolutely not, they assure.

“I like a really competitive team – I want our opponents to be scared of us,” Chelsea said.

But for right now, it’s about building the team, setting a foundation, the sisters said.

Last season the team won four games, lost 14.

Since then, only two of the players have been re-added to the roster. That means a fresh new team – the slate, completely clean.

Nayebzadeh is holding open gym practices for the team, where the players come to get to know each other on the court. In a couple weeks, the team will be heading into organized training.

“I’m really excited for it,” Brittney said about working with the team in the coming season. “We get along really well.”

“The thing is trusting one another, to grow as a group,” she said.

“If there’s no trust, there is no group,” Chelsea said.

One idea that rings true for the Church sisters, and for Nayebzadeh, is that the team heads into the next phase looking to build a program – to get organized, to get a system going.

“We set standards for ourselves,” Nayebzadeh said, “and with that will come success.”

Standards, the sisters already know all about. They also know about being realistic and setting standards and goals that accommodate their reality.

“I’m not going to say we’re going to win a championship,” Chelsea said when asked about the teams overall goal heading into the 2011-2012 season.

“I’m not saying we have to win anything – but I have goals for success.”

“If you lose a game, you can still be successful,” she said. “I just want us to do well, feel good as a team, and be proud to be Kwantlen athletes.”