For over a decade, freshmen twins Brian and Sarah Hackman have played together on the tennis court. This year, they get to continue playing in Hillsdale College Chargers uniforms.
The two attended Wauconda High School in Island Lake, Illinois, a northwest suburb of Chicago. Both were named Most Valuable Player of their tennis teams, and both played No. 1 singles at Wauconda. Brian was team captain of the men’s team, and Sarah was team captain of the women’s team.
“We played other sports, but tennis was different because it was something we could do together,” Sarah said.
She and Brian have played tennis together since they were seven years old. The twins bounce energy off each other and look out for each other through middle school, high school, and now college.
”We were always pretty close,” Brian said, “so we thought it would be a good thing to go to the same school. There’s a comfort of having family at college. We weren’t going to force it, but it worked out pretty well.”
As the two grew up, they were always in the same practice and were “competitive from the beginning,” according to their mother, Leslie Hackman.
“They were competitive even when they were little,” Leslie said. “It was always about who could rally more balls on the court, or who was taller.”
Brian in particular always wanted to compete against Sarah. Jeff Hackman, the twins’ father, said that Brian is “all boy” and “outwardly competitive,” while Sarah is “quietly competitive” and “stoic.”
As children, the twins were what Sarah described as “little trouble makers.” They would often take advantage of the fact that there were two of them and only one mom. They also pulled tricks like hiding under the table to eat hershey kisses from a cookie jar and then stuffing the wrappers under the couch.
Brian and Sarah played their first USTA match at 10 years old. The match was three hours long and the twins were not able to reach their parents at any point in that time span. Moreover, Sarah’s opponent was a frequent trash-talker.
“Those kind of tournaments definitely made her stronger,” Jeff said.
“It taught Sarah to be resilient,” Leslie said, “To learn how to let things roll off her back off the court as well as on.”
Leslie said for Brian, tennis “gives him structure.”
“Brian is very energetic, so it gives him an outlet for his energy; and a chance to compete, because he loves competition,” Jeff added.
There was certainly a place for both Brian and Sarah in Hillsdale’s athletic department. Head women’s tennis coach Nikki Walbright reached out to Sarah, and head men’s tennis coach Keith Turner had Brian first on his list for a spot on the team.
The day before Walbright sent Sarah a recruiting email, Leslie learned about Hillsdale through research and encouraged her daughter to contact the coach.
“It wasn’t a coincidence,” Leslie said.
At Hillsdale, Sarah’s best friend and teammate Kara Johnson said Sarah “pushes herself and everyone else on the team. She’s had challenges that she uses on the court. In every single thing she does, she’s strong and has a good mindset.”
Johnson is a friend of Brain’s as well.
“We love Brian,” Johnson said. “He is funny, chill and relaxed, but also a hard worker.”
When asked to describe her brother, Sarah said, “Brian is definitely a comedian. He likes to make people laugh and he makes people smile, even if he’s not doing it intentionally, and even if I don’t always like it.”
“Sarah wouldn’t admit it, but she likes putting up with all my shenanigans,” Brian said.
On and off the court, Sarah and Brian’s friendship as twins provides support and encouragement for one another.
“They bring each other up,” Johnson said. “They’re like power twins.”