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Ryan Bakken, Forum News Service, Published February 03 2013

Sibling rivalries in childhood sometimes last a lifetime

GRAND FORKS - Sibling rivalry is tied to two factors — gender and age difference — says Rick Ferraro, a UND psychology professor.

Males are much more likely than females to engage in sibling rivalry. “Girls talk and take turns and boys grunt and fight,” he said.

Siblings close in age also are more likely to compete, he said. The Harbaughs, the coaches in today’s Super Bowl, qualify on both counts as John is just 15 months older than Jim.

“Sibling rivalries are always about seeking the attention of parents,” Ferraro said. “The first born gets all the attention, but then No. 2 comes along and they’re both competing for that attention.

“I doubt the Harbaughs, at their age, are still seeking Mom and Dad’s attention. But, if the younger one wants to catch up, winning the Super Bowl would be the ultimate way of doing so,” Ferraro said.

Following is a look at sibling rivalry at the local/regional level.

The Herbel brothers are a regional version of the Harbaughs. Now in their 70s, Gil and Ray Herbel have competed against each other their entire lives, as brothers, teammates and opponents.

In high school in tiny Alsen, N.D., “I didn’t want Ray to get more points than I did,” Gil said. “Being only a year apart in age, we were always vying for starting spots.”

Later, they were basketball teammates at Mayville (N.D.) State University and played together on amateur baseball, fast-pitch softball and basketball teams.

“We were teammates, but we still competed against each other,” Gil said.

The rivalry continued when they met as high school basketball coaches for 10 years, Gil at Grafton, N.D., and Vern at Devils Lake. Both schools were in Class A at the time, so the teams were natural rivals, adding more heat to games.

“You always want to prepare more and get more out of your kids when you coach against a brother,” Vern said. “You want bragging rights.

“The fans enjoyed it when we played against each other, more so than Gil and I did.”

However, the brothers said, when the games were done, they could walk away as friends and brothers. Perhaps an exchange last week indicated that the sibling rivalry hasn’t expired, however, dispelling science’s notion that sibling rivalries typically die out over time.

“Both of us were competitive in sports, but I was just a little better than he was all the time,” Gil said.

Answered Ray: “In basketball, Gil’s motto was that he would rather make a bad shot than a bad pass. I always have kidded him that I had to play defense and rebound and he got to take all the shots.”

Although proximity in age triggers sibling rivalries, that is not the case with twins, Ferraro said.

“Twins don’t usually have rivalries,” the UND psychology professor said. “Logic says twins get an equal amount of attention from their parents. So they’re not seeking more attention.”

That would explain the Lamoureux twins of Grand Forks, All-Americans on the UND women’s hockey team. Monique and Jocelyn are highly competitive athletes, as are their parents and four brothers.

“We’ve had a lot of people tell us we’re some of most competitive people they know,” said Monique, who also competed with her sister in swimming and cross country.

However, they are not competitive among themselves.

“If I place second in something, it’s okay as long as Monique is first. Or, vice versa,” Jocelyn said.

When they compete in the weight room or in skating drills, “it’s to make both of us better,” Monique said. “It’s not done in a jealous way.”

They have never played on opposing teams in any sport. However, they would compete along with their older brothers in boot hockey on the driveway or on the makeshift rink on the coulee near the family’s Grand Forks home.

“Our brothers would fight with each other,” Monique said. “And sometimes someone was crying because they got slashed.”

Added Jocelyn: “But it was not malicious.”

Ferraro’s notions of sibling rivalry don’t cover all cases, however. Consider his assertion that “rivalries tend to drop off when the siblings reach adulthood.”

An exception involves the four Skarperud brothers, who grew up in Grand Forks. Chad, Matt, Ryan and Tim Skarperud, now ranging in age from 40 to 34, are still going strong in their quest for family top dog athletically.

“There are no fistfights, but there is definitely some ribbing and competitions still going on,” said Tim Skarperud, a former UND hockey player who is now a member of the Grand Forks Park Board.

“Our friends always try to get us going by asking us who is the best golfer or who was the best hockey player,” he said. “We don’t fall into that trap quite as often as before, but it still happens.”

It started with floor hockey games in the family’s basement. It culminated in 2011 when Tim defeated Chad in four extra holes to win the North Dakota State Amateur match play golf title.

“There was more riding on it than the state championship because we both knew ribbing was going to go on afterwards,” Tim said.

“We all want success for everyone else. But, we both wanted to win that golf tournament so badly,” he said.