The Swarthmore men’s soccer team is one of the most successful teams on campus. Led by a strong senior class, the team went into the season with a #15 national ranking. This team has ambition and wants to win back the conference. However, within this talented group, two players stand out uniquely in their similarity to each other
Mike and Geoff Stewart ‘15, both juniors, are twins. When on the pitch together, they confuse their opponents with their almost identical looks. “Kids will definitely do double takes when they see us on the field together,” said Geoff.
They even confuse referees. “Once in a high school game, I got a yellow card on my first foul,” Mike said. “Geoff had accumulated multiple fouls beforehand and he would have been carded if he made one more bad challenge. Unfortunately, the ref thought I was him and I got the card instead.”
The brothers both got their starts in soccer in South Philly. They practiced on the streets and often anger their neighbors by kicking the ball at their car windshields. However, their soccer experience became more formalized on club teams, in middle school, and in high school. They decided that soccer would be the sport they would pursue primarily. “I really wanted to play something like basketball, but obviously that wasn’t going to workout with my height and build,” said Mike.
Fortunately, both were good at soccer and played on the same team, which worked logistically for their mother, who had to drive them to practice.
While they were both great individual talents, they really pushed each other to become better than they would’ve been if they weren’t twins. “We wanted each other to play better,” said Mike. “If one of us is lagging behind the other, than we’re both annoyed.” They wanted to stay on par with each other. They have a healthy, productive sibling rivalry that isn’t really a rivalry. They both just will each other to be better.
“If I get 100 juggles, it’s a given that I’m going to sit and wait until Mike does it too,” said Geoff. However, the intensity of expectations of each other have certainly been lowered with age. Nonetheless, they will each other to be better in whatever way they can, and improved during their critical period of learning soccer through their sibling intensity.
Back in their high school days at Shipley, they had a very simple strategy to achieve victory. “I would pass to Mike, and he would score,” Geoff said. They had great chemistry on the pitch and had some of their most fun moments in soccer back in highschool when they were top players and played on the field at the same time more often. Because of their skills, big-time division 3 schools recruited them both. At the end of the day, Swarthmore was a top choice for both of them, and they realized how unique an opportunity they had to go to one of the best schools and soccer programs in the country together. However, it’s not as if the Stewarts are the first brothers to play on the soccer team. The Sterngold brothers and the Langley brothers, neither of which pairs are twins, preceded them. Noah Sterngold is the only one of this group who hasn’t yet graduated. “We fell into a situation where it wasn’t standard practice [brothers playing together] but since we saw how well the soccer experience was working out for the existing sets of brothers on them team we kind of wanted to be a part of that,” said Geoff. Swarthmore provided the perfect situation to continue their soccer dreams.
As they have grown up, Mike and Geoff have gone from relishing on playing on the field together and being angry if one was injured or on the bench, to being fine with not always playing on the pitch together. It is a difficult situation for Geoff currently, as he is nursing a long-time groin injury that has kept him from playing as much as he would at full fitness. “I rehabbed all summer, fingers crossed,” said Geoff. He has converted to a defensive midfielder and has contributed to the team when needed. “My goal is to be healthy and available for the team in any role throughout the season. I just want to be able to help where I’m needed.” Though Mike currently starts and Geoff is hampered by injury, Geoff is happy to play whatever role he can with his determined work ethic.
Geoff and Mike Stewart have a unique experience with soccer that not many others have. While it’s great when they are scoring goals or contributing on the field, they agree that the most important aspect of their relationship with soccer comes from reflecting on just how long they have been playing together on the same teams. “Once after an away game, I got on the bus and just thought of how long we’ve been playing together. As kids, as middle schoolers, on club teams, as high schoolers, and now at the college level. Mike and I have a really special relationship,” said Geoff. Geoff and Mike’s story is a reminder to us all that at the end of the day, it’s the people we surround ourselves with that give life meaning. Their on-field relationship and accolades on the pitch are certainly to be praised, but their experiences playing soccer together play a prominent role in what will be, and has been, a strong brotherly bond.