BEMENT — Alyssa Hendrix has been known to answer to Anna, but it's not her alter ego.
It's her twin sister's name.
When some well-intentioned soul offers a compliment for the way one of her many activities successfully turned out, she is inclined to be appreciative rather than speak in a correctional tone.
"We don't like making people feel bad," Alyssa Hendrix said.
Therein, creates one of the quandaries for the congenial Bement High School juniors. They possess many, many similarities, including a pet peeve.
"Many people treat us as one, instead of two," Anna Hendrix said, "which is one of our least favorite things."
The fact is, where you find one of the two 16-year-olds, you generally find the other.
They are each starters in volleyball, they play basketball, they've shared the same baton on conference championship track and field relays, and that's just in sports.
They have each earned all A's in high school and are tied for No. 1 in their class academically — yes, only with each other — and they are also cheerleaders, band and choir members as well as officers in some of the same student organizations, such as the Math Club. In the spring, they'll try out for the school musical, something they've done each year since sixth grade.
They pick up the story from there.
"We have the same taste in clothes," Anna Hendrix said. "We share most everything, especially clothes. Sometimes we will get clothes from each other's closet, put them on and when my twin sister sees me in it, says, 'I was going to wear that today.' Unfortunately, this kind of thing happens all the time."
A study in similarities
They both want to pursue a career in the medical field, "preferably dealing with children," Anna Hendrix said.
"I'm really hoping to work with kids," Alyssa Hendrix said.
They even like the same foods, "raspberries and mashed potatoes," Anna said, "but not together," Alyssa added.
Even en route to a fun activity, they are driven to success. The twins recently had their pictures taken for this newspaper article during the Little Okaw Conference tournament at Atwood. Bement wasn't playing on the night of the photo shoot, so their father, John, provided the transportation after their practice ended.
"We studied," Anna said, explaining how they spent the 25-minute trip.
Growing up together
Bement volleyball coach Carissa Benner first got to know Alyssa and Anna Hendrix when the students were in middle school and she worked with their teams.
"I can tell them apart really well actually," Benner said. "They both have distinct facial features. I can usually tell the two apart by their noses. They also have very distinct personalities.
"Alyssa is more enthusiastic, wild and crazy. Anna is more reserved and calm. Both girls have very bubbly, upbeat personalities, which makes them fun to work with."
How others see them, however, is not always how they see themselves or even how they are every second of every day.
"I'm more outgoing and crazy in public," Anna claimed, "while Alyssa is calmer."
Added Alyssa: "We switch when we get home. She is more laid-back, and I'm the opposite."
Benner and assistant Brooke Wright are sure of what they see.
"We both think Anna is the more calmer one around us at least," Benner said.
Look-alikes sound alike
Imagine their parents, John and Lisa Hendrix. They had to make sure they got it right from the beginning.
"I was so scared of messing them up when I brought them home, I left their ID bracelet on their arms until it was so tight we had to cut it off," Lisa Hendrix said.
Sorting through baby photos is a thankless challenge.
"Eventually we felt safe to tell them apart," John Hendrix said, "but we have many pictures from when they were young that who they are is anyone's guess."
The parents know who's who these days — even out of their numbered uniforms — with one exception.
"When they call or answer the phone, I do not know which one is talking to me," John Hendrix said. "I usually have to ask or figure it out in our conversation."
Lisa Hendrix said "their voices are very similar. I have a very hard time on the phone and usually have to talk to them quite a while before I figure it out."
Keeping in tune
The girls never have played tricks on any of the coaches from their sports teams and pretended to be the other, though there was one occasion where Alyssa stepped in for Anna and went undetected.
"One time, in eighth grade, we switched places and nobody knew," Anna said. "Alyssa went to my trumpet lesson."
A flute player on other days, Alyssa said the switch worked for a one-time change.
"I kind of just played one note over and over," Alyssa said, "the only one Anna had taught me."
Music always has been an important part of their life.
"It's in our blood," Anna said. "We were born into music."
Their paternal grandparents, John and Beulah Hendrix (both of whom are deceased) passed along their passion for music. The twins have taken private piano lessons since fourth grade.
Best friends forever
For the record, Anna is the older sister by 5 minutes, though Alyssa observes, "sometimes she acts like the youngest."
In truth, they are each older than expected.
"They came six weeks early," said Lisa Hendrix. "I just had my second baby shower and one more was scheduled for that weekend.
"We got to the hospital at 3:30 p.m., and they were born at 7:32 and 7:37."
The girls' jabs at each other are good-natured. They actually get along fantastically.
"Of course, she is my best friend," Alyssa said. "I can tell her anything, and I know she will always be there for me. We share everything, which used to bother me, but now I'm used to it.
"We are two peas in a pod. She is my other half. She completes me."
The joy is shared equally by Anna. "I couldn't imagine life without her," she said.
The closeness of the twins does not surprise Benner.
"A lot of times at games, and on the bus, you will always find them right next to each other," she said.
Individuals not always equal
Within the confines of the sporting arena, Benner sees two volleyball players who are not only close in talent but also possess many of the same skills.
"Both of their strong points have always been their serving and passing," Benner said. "They are tall, but at the same time, they are tiny girls."
There are times both are on the court together and times when one or both are sitting.
"If they are not playing up to their full potential, I am not afraid to take them out of the game," Benner said.
Anna has been playing as a middle hitter. Alyssa has been playing outside. Both stand about 5-foot-6.
Coaching twins, Benner said, "is not any different than coaching other girls, except for one less set of parental signatures to obtain (to opt out of the postmatch bus ride home from road trips). I look at them and coach them as individuals rather than a two-for-one deal."
The girls don't have a favorite sport.
"We love volleyball but are probably the best at track," Anna said. "We focus on each sport as the season rolls around. We have always had the same interest in sports, so we have never had to worry about leaving one of us behind."
If there's one item the girls lack, it's time. This semester — the fourth in a row they've had the same schedule throughout the school day — they have no study hall.
By the time they finish volleyball and cheerleading practices and eat supper, the remainder of their evening usually is set.
"We spend about three hours a night on homework," Alyssa said.
They do so without complaints because they welcome the opportunity to be busy with activities they enjoy. Though competing in three sports and cheerleading for two boys' teams is not a venture many teenagers would undertake, Anna said, "If we had to choose, I wouldn't. I would find a way to make it work."
Not surprisingly, Alyssa holds the same feelings.
"I love cheerleading, but I love the sports, too," she said. "I would not like to have to choose."
Guys, listen up
OK, guys, take note. If you'd like to get on either Alyssa's or Anna's good side, there's something important to know.
Quite simply, learn to whom it is you're speaking.
"We have the exact same taste in guys," Anna said.
"I like nice, tall, athletic guys who care about school," Alyssa said.
"I also like a guy who's funny," Anna said.
To a person, however, they don't see any humor in guys who don't recognize them.
"If they don't try to figure out who I am, then they aren't even worth it," Alyssa said.
"I make sure he learns my name before I start talking to him," Anna said. "If they don't want to put in the tiny effort of just learning my name, then they are a waste of my time."
One final, helpful hint: Don't make assumptions on identity if you spot one of the girls carrying a trumpet.
Fred Kroner is The News-Gazette's prep sports coordinator. He writes a weekly high school-related column throughout the school year. He can be reached by fax at 217-373-7401, by phone at 217-351-5232 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.