Meet the McNamara Twins: Megan and Nicole.
Born and raised in British Columbia, they’ve not only competed in scores of beach volleyball events around the world, but from the fall of 2015 until the spring of 2019, they kicked ass collegiately for the UCLA Bruins,leading the team to its first Pac-12 and NCAA titles in the sport during the 2018 season, and a second NCAA championship in the 2019 season. And, last year, they finally turned professional, making their World Championships debut in Hamburg, Germany.
To call them “beach volleyball’s next big thing” wouldn’t be hyperbole, but it might actually miss their big-picture potential. After all, between their winning ways and built-in, ever-marketable sibling storyline — Venus and Serena Williams, Peyton and Eli Manning, Vitali and Wladimir Klitschko, anyone? — the McNamara twins likely have what it takes to transcend the sand court and become the darlings of the entire Canadian sports world, period. And, who knows, maybe Canada will just be the start.
With the 2020 FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour well underway, GLORY had the opportunity to connect with the Doublemint-worthy duo before they head to Australia’s Gold Coast for the FIVB 3 Star World Tour Event, and to hear their thoughts on, well, just about everything.
ON WHY THEY GRAVITATED TOWARDS BEACH VOLLEYBALL
The lifestyle: being outside in the sun, playing on the beach. We love that aspect of it. We loved that it was just the two of us out there. Because, even with indoor volleyball, our coaches would sometimes get mad because we would just try to pass and set with each other in the game. We stuck with it because, not only is it very physically demanding, but it’s also very mentally demanding. There’s no subs. You can’t be coached during the match. It forces you to be very independent as an athlete.
ON REALIZING THEY BOTH POSSESSED ELITE QUALITIES
We signed up for a camp in Vancouver when we were 12. From the first practice, the coach pulled our mom aside and was like, “Your girls have something special. You should really sign them up for tournaments.” We realized we have a knack for this; that we could see ourselves doing this long-term at a high level. Then, when we were in high school, they added college beach volleyball. The timing was perfect for us to get recruited and be able to play in the NCAA.
ON THEIR DECORATED COLLEGIATE CAREERS
UCLA was the most amazing experience. It was always in our future to go to university, to be able to do that and play competitive beach volleyball at the same time was amazing. When we started, we were two of the first Canadians to go down there on scholarship. To get All-American all four years and to win the championship our last few years, it was really special. We’re really proud of the legacy we left.
ON TRANSITIONING TO THE PROFESSIONAL RANKS
It was pretty intimidating at first. Being amongst Olympians and the players that we’ve looked up to and watched from when we first started. It’s definitely been an adjustment period. But, the more that we’re playing and the more experience that we’re getting, we’re realizing that we can hang and it’s where we belong; that this is what we are meant to be doing and it’s what we want to do.
ON MAKING THE NATIONAL TEAM AND REPRESENTING CANADA ON THE WORLD STAGE
It’s really a dream come true. To be able to wear the Canadian flag, there’s no greater honour in our eyes. The top two Canadian women beach volleyball teams are two of the top teams in the world, so to be coming into the program at such a time when we’re gaining that recognition, it’s really great. Our sport is growing. People are realizing, Wow! Canada is going to become a powerhouse, like Brazil or the USA! Before, Canada couldn’t really compete against those top countries. Now, they’re the teams to watch out for, which is pretty exciting.
ON PLAYING WITH YOUR TWIN
It’s really special, [especially] because we are on the shorter side. We’re both 5′ 9″ and coaches have told us that we’re too short to play together. But, we love using that to motivate us and train hard and try to prove people wrong. And, of course, the sister chemistry. People say that we have “twin magic” — that’s what they call it — and that we’re very in sync with each other.
ON THE PROS AND CONS OF THAT “TWIN MAGIC”
We’re like a married couple. We train together. We spend all of our time together. We live together. It’s definitely a full-time working relationship. And, we are definitely competitive with each other. We have been from a really young age — in school with sports and everything. But, what makes our relationship great is that we hold each other to such a high standard. It’s easy to have those tough conversations; to be honest with each other. So, it can be our greatest strength, but also our biggest weakness. Like anyone, sisters fight. We can be brutally honest, but when we’re getting along and things are going well, our chemistry helps us win games.
ON THEIR FUTURE GOALS
We have really lofty goals and Olympic dreams. We want to be one of the top teams in the world. When we were around that 15-16 age and doing so well, we could have started playing pro right from then on. But, we made the choice to put our pro career on hold and go to university, and we are really happy with that choice. That’s a choice we made with our parents and it was a great experience. Now, we’re ready to totally dive in and make a name for ourselves.
*This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.