p1440 Developmental Program: McKenna Thibodeau and Madison Willis
It’s moments after McKenna Thibodeau and Madison Witt have finished an interview at the Huntington Beach Pier, and McKenna is wondering whether they showed too much personality.
They look at each other for a moment. They laugh.
Too much personality? The Witt sisters? The ones who came on a podcast, SANDCAST, and labeled themselves the “weird-athletic, scrappy, twig-noodle” sisters?
Nah. There’s no such thing as too much personality. Not with these two. They giggle when they tell the camera that “I’m McKenna, I’m 23, and I’m from Glendale, Arizona,” and “I’m Madison, I’m 23, and I’m ALSO from Glendale, Arizona,” as if they just revealed some great secret, that yes, these identical humans are twins.
That’s them – giggling, joking, full of pizzazz and charisma, of spirit and perpetual smiles and a type of joy typically reserved for children. And while they’re breaking in new names – both were recently married, adopting Thibodeau and Willis for their last names as opposed to Witt – they’ll always be known, at least in beach volleyball circles, as The Witt Sisters, no different than the Lindquists, now Katie Jameson and Tracy Jones, will always be known as The Lindquist Sisters.
“I still need to go to the DMV to go full Willis,” Madison said.
“I’m full Thibodeau. It’s so weird,” McKenna added. “We’ve been Witt-Witt forever. Now people don’t even know we’re sisters anymore.”
That much, there is little worrying about. They’re completely and totally identical, in personality, looks and life story. They’ve enjoyed the same peaks and, especially in 2018, weathered similar setbacks.
“This last year, going through all these injuries – labrum tear, ab tear, Madison threw out her back, didn’t expect any of that,” McKenna said. “But it was the most transformational year of my entire life.”
Transformation has become a talent for them. They’ve become something of beach volleyball entrepreneurs, helping to launch the beach program at Arizona, compiling an 85-33 record, qualifying for the inaugural NCAA Championships in 2016, earning back-to-back All-American honors. After a grad year at Cal Baptist, they became one of the first p1440 sponsored athletes, helping to launch a fledgling event series and its brand, becoming two of the smiling, giggling, supremely talented faces of p1440.
“About five or six years ago we had the opportunity to be some of the first recruits at the University of Arizona,” Madison said. “That’s where our beach roots lie, man, we grew them there. It’s really fun to be a part of something from the ground up. With p1440, we were one of its first athletes, seems to be a trend I guess.”
“Not afraid to start something new,” McKenna said. “p1440 has been an absolute game changer for us, having access to so many resources that we wouldn’t have otherwise had, a consistent place to train, to workout, people to reach out to when we’re trying to make a tournament schedule or what it’s like to play internationally.”
So here they are, the Thibodillis – their name, and yes, they’re still working on it – Sisters, heading into their second professional season. The injuries are healed, last names changed, spirits full.
“If you’re not loving what you do,” McKenna said, “and if you’re feeling drained and at the end of your rope every day, you’re doing something wrong. Out here, I have never once felt that way.”
Madison admitted, perhaps reluctantly, that she’s felt drained at times, a little burned out.
McKenna gave her a sideways look. Burned out on the sand, maybe, but what about spiritually? Emotionally?
“Full. Always full.”
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