News From Terre Haute, Indiana

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February 3, 2013

Sibling Rivalry: Susan Cobb and Stacy Mason

TERRE HAUTE — Twins Susan Cobb and Stacy Mason know a little something about sibling rivalry.

Growing up, they participated in the same activities, including the same sports throughout middle school.

They played varsity basketball and tennis together at Terre Haute North Vigo High School, where their coach was their father, Charles Seitz, a social studies teacher.

Together, they both pursued careers in education. Mason is executive director of secondary education with the Vigo County School Corp., while Cobb is principal at Ouabache Elementary.

While they’ve competed at times, and occasionally got mad at each other, “We’re each other’s best friend,” Cobb said. “We get along so well.”

That’s not to say there hasn’t been some sibling rivalry along the way.

In basketball, Cobb scored more points and was the stronger offensive player, while Mason was the better defensive player.

In tennis, Mason played No. 1 doubles, while Cobb played No. 2 doubles.

In basketball, the person who scores more “tends to be a little more important to some people,” Mason said. “The better person at defense isn’t always the recognized person.” They can smile about it now.

Sometimes, it would get a little tough when they’d all go home after a game when one twin had done well while the other one had experienced an off night.

While they might get upset for a little while, they quickly let it blow over. It never adversely affected their relationship, on or off the court.

“If we had a different coach, I don’t know if it would have worked out so well for us,” Cobb said. Between the two sports, “Our dad kind of evened it out for us, so we each had our time to shine.”

Sometimes being twins worked to their advantage, confusing the opponent. Not only did they look alike, but Cobb wore the number 32 in basketball and Mason was 42.

“When other teams tried to set up their defense, they’d get confused because we played different positions a lot,” Mason said.

Their teams did well, scoring an average 80 points per game in their senior season, bolstered by team members Livia Hester and Robin Downs, both of whom were considered for the Indiana All-Star team.

The record that year was 15 wins, 4 losses, and in one game, the team scored 106 points — still a school record for most points scored in a game, Seitz says. The year the twins started on the team, though, the players couldn’t get a win, compiling a 0-19 record.

Seitz can recall only once where he was accused of “playing favorites” with one of his daughters, and the complaint came from the parent of another basketball player.

“Susan was having a good game” and scoring well, Seitz said. The parent who was upset had wanted his daughter to “play the whole time,” which didn’t happen.

“That was the only time I was questioned,” said the former coach.

According to Mason, the reason her father-coach didn’t get many complaints was because “he played everybody,” not just five team members.

In fact, sometimes when he’d yell at the team, he’d be looking straight at his daughters — and they’d take it a little too personally, especially if they thought they didn’t deserve it.

“He didn’t want it to appear he was favoring us,” Cobb said. He wanted others to realize they were in trouble, too, she said.

The friendly rivalry between the sisters also extended to grades in school. “She always did a little bit better than me,” Cobb said. In elementary school, she would say that her sister “got the good teachers and I got the bad teachers … we always had a comeback why maybe one was doing better than the other.”

As they grew up, the twins shared just about all activities, including middle and high school sports. Following in the footsteps of their parents, they chose to become educators.

For the past 17 years, both have worked for the Vigo County School Corp., starting as teachers and then moving into administration. Before she became director of secondary education, Mason served as the North Vigo principal for four years.

Cobb also has been principal at Honey Creek Middle School and assistant principal at West Vigo High School.

For two years while Mason was the North principal, she was her teacher-dad’s “boss.”

“We laughed. He went from being my boss in many ways, and I got to be his,” Mason said.

Fortunately, she never had to discipline her dad. “Thankfully, he did what he was supposed to do all the time,” Mason said, “so there wasn’t an issue there.”

Seitz’ reaction to having his daughter as his boss? “That was different, I’ll put it that way,” he said. “She did a great job, though.”

He told his wife, Elaine, the twins’ mother, “I’m there backing her up.”

Cobb and Mason have always been sounding boards for one another, seeking each other’s advice. There have been times when each has been protective of the other, especially if they believed someone was mistreating the sister.

Cobb and Mason even take vacations together, and each one is married and has three children.

The two did decide to go their separate ways in college, when Mason went to Indiana University while Cobb attended Indiana State University. “In college, they couldn’t wait to get away from each other,” Seitz said.

That led to the biggest battle they ever had — who got to take what clothing, which they always had shared. Their mom and dad told them to “fight it out.”

Mason said it involved “a lot of give and take.” Cobb got to keep the car because freshmen at IU weren’t allowed to have cars.

But soon after they went their separate ways, they were calling each other two and three times a day. With a twin, they realized, “You always have a friend and always have someone there,” Cobb said.

Both believe they’ve benefited from their friendly competition. “Our sibling rivalry has been to each other’s advantage because we motivate each other to take the next step or go to the next level,” Cobb said.

When Mason became a principal, Cobb wanted to do the same.

They pursued master’s degrees together, and now they’re considering pursuit of doctoral degrees — together. “If she’s not ready, we’re not doing it. If I’m not ready, she’s not doing it,” Mason said. They’ve set a Feb. 15 deadline to decide.

Without having each other for support and encouragement, they’re not sure they’d be where they are today.

Even now, though, there is still some of that competitive spirit. When they took a test to receive their principal licenses, Cobb kept thinking, “I hope my scores are higher.”

But Mason’s “was one point higher than mine,” Cobb said. “Her tests are always better than mine.”

While there’s still that sense of, “I want to beat her, I want to beat her …  ultimately, I think we’ve always used it to help motivate each other and be more successful,” Cobb said.

And their ability to work together as a team has helped them in their careers as educators. When Mason went to IU, she came to realize she always spoke in terms of “we,” and not, “I.”

“We have a more global, team approach in the way we think and how we operate as people,” Mason said.

Seitz, Mason and Cobb all plan to watch the Super Bowl, although with the Colts out of the picture, they don’t have strong feelings about who they want to win.

“I’m pretty sure Harbaugh is going to win,” Seitz said. He added, “It would be hard to be the parents” of Jim and John Harbaugh.

Years ago, when he was a student in New Albany, Seitz remembers watching twins Harley and Arley Andrews play on the Gerstmeyer Tech basketball team for Howard Sharpe.

“I thought it was kind of neat to have twins play. I never thought I’d have twin girls doing the same thing,” Seitz said.

In fact, he and Elaine didn’t know they were having twins until the babies were born.

He’s proud of what his daughters have done in athletics and what they’ve accomplished since then. “They’ve done great,” he said.

Sue Loughlin can be reached at (812) 231-4235 or sue.loughlin@tribstar.com.

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