FORT LEE, Va. -- Astute Traveller readers may have noticed an unusual occurrence in the centerspread display of student photos that was part of the June 21 edition’s high school graduation insert.
Three of those individuals shared the last name Thompson, and they are the first set of triplets to grace the pages of the supplement since it was introduced to the post newspaper 12 years ago. Andrew, Laura and Sarah graduated from Prince George High School on June 16.
What the Traveller also learned is that two of those 18-year-olds were starting members of the PGHS Softball Team that won the Class 5 state title June 9. Shortstop Sarah and pitcher Laura – daughters of retired 1st Sgt. Keith Thompson and spouse Yong Thompson – played important roles on a Lady Royals squad that achieved a historic 23-1 season capped off by an 11-4 shellacking of Brooke Point in the championship game.
(Read Progress Index coverage of the contest at www.progress-index.com/sports/20180609/prince-george-softball-state-champions)
Sarah, explaining the team’s success, said a strong sense of unity made all the difference between this season and those in the past.
“This year, we really played as a family,” she said. “Last year, we really didn’t get along, so to recover from that and win the whole thing … it really is a great feeling.”
What’s the difference between playing as a team and a family?
“When you play as a family, you actually communicate with each other and you like each other,” said Laura. “When we bought that out to the field, I guess it did good things.”
The Lady Royals finished 18-4 in 2016 and 22-2 last year when they were sent home with a loss in the first round of the state championship.
If the family factor was indeed the decisive element of the Lady Royals’ success, the Thompson brood who has been primed since early childhood to work together could only make the team that much better. They grew up on or within the shadow of military installations and were immersed in the strong community bonds of those environs. Furthermore, the trio of siblings were treated to constant lessons of teamwork and common purpose by way of their father.
“As a first sergeant, I helped to develop the uniqueness of a family unit (among company Soldiers), and I tried teaching that to my kids – functioning together as a tight-knit group,” said Keith Thompson. “I think it’s unique because a lot of families today do their own thing (head in separate directions morning, noon and night) when 95 percent of the time we still sit down and eat at least one meal together as a household. It doesn’t always happen – as they’ve gotten older with sports and work – but we try to do it every day. As parents, we also try to teach them values and the importance of living by those positive traits.”
The Thompson girls, along with Andrew, were exposed to team sports early on. They have played T-Ball since age 6 and once dabbled in soccer and basketball. The girls also took a shot at cheerleading, however, they developed a love for diamonds.
“Softball was our decision because we enjoyed it so much,” said Laura. “The other (sports activities) were just something we did in the off-season so we could stay busy.”
The girls played softball all through middle school on recreation and traveling teams, said Keith, who often helped to coach his daughter’s teams. Additionally, many of the young ladies they played with as tweens are their championship teammates today.
“It started with these girls in 4th and 5th grades in rec ball,” Keith elaborated. “There was a handful of kids back when they were 8 or 9, and they threw together on a travel ball team. They called themselves the Little Lady Royals – the Lady Royals nowadays. We actually played travel ball with two of the girls for six or seven years. Some of them are really close.”
The triplets are close as well. Sarah, the oldest by one minute, said the siblings are relationally tight despite the fact Andrew is prone to be a thorn.
“I think we have a very good relationship,” she said. “Like any other family, the brother is going to annoy you. It’s just a part of growing up.”
Sarah also said she grew closer to Laura over the years because they were perennial teammates.
“When we were younger, we argued a lot,” she recalled, “but as we grew older and kept playing together, we had to agree and finally got closer. Andrew, too. He hasn’t distanced himself; he just plays a lot of video games.”
With high school graduation behind them, the Thompson household is focusing on college. It’s a time that Yong, for one, struggles to accept. The mere mention of the triplets going off to further their studies generates a bit of emotion.
“It’s sad,” she said, wiping her eyes, “but they are grown up.”
Laura and Sarah are set to matriculate at Concord University in Athens, West Va., where they received partial athletic scholarships. Andrew is scheduled to attend Mary Baldwin University in Staunton.
Keith, acknowledging things will not be the same at home, said the girls still have traveling team games scheduled for the summer, and each are opportunities to do things together as a family unit. It will not be a “last hurrah,” but a retrospective on how quickly time flies.
“It’s amazing to me – my wife would say the same thing,” he said. “It’s been 18 years, but it truly doesn’t feel like it’s been that length of time. It feels like it’s just been a short journey.”
In looking toward the triplet’s future, dad feels the anticipation any parent feels on the cusp of sending kids off into the world.
“I’m excited, anxious and nervous because the way the world is today, you’ve got to be ready to tackle it,” he said. “My hopes are that as parents we’ve taught them the proper lessons to move forward, and understanding some of the arguments we may have had as a family were more of tools for training and trying to develop them to understand the ways of life. It’s going to be a sad time, but at the same time a joyful opportunity to see their success.”