It took about 10 minutes.
Soccer practice at Sonoma Academy was winding down a little after 5 p.m. Tuesday and coach Chris Ziemer sent seniors Gabby Tukman and Tristen Sherley up to the locker room to change. Not to change into their civilian duds, mind you, but into their basketball uniforms. Tipoff, after all, was at 6 p.m.
When Sonoma Academy followed the lead of the North Bay and Sonoma County leagues in moving girls soccer to winter this season, both Tukman and Sherley were sure they would have to pick between their two favorite sports. But Ziemer, who is also Sonoma Academy’s athletic director, got together with basketball coach Kevin Christensen and hashed out a plan that would allow the two seniors, who also captain both squads, to play both sports.
“We felt like it was the right thing to do for them,” Ziemer said. “Long term, it’s difficult to sustain. We just felt like given how much both of them have invested in the program, we wanted to give them the opportunity to make their own decision.”
They chose to play both.
“I love both sports and I definitely could not pick one,” Sherley said.
They are not alone.
The Analy High tandem of senior Claire Brown and junior Isabel Housman are pulling double duty as well. So, too, is Housman’s twin brother, Sam.
“It was definitely a decision I didn’t want to make,” Brown said of choosing between her two favorite sports.
But pulling it off is no easy feat. Emails fly, text messages whiz between coach and players and back again, as everyone tries to figure out who is where, how many hours of workout the athletes are getting and where will their contributions will be most needed.
“I talked to our AD and he told me that if this is what they wanted to do, there were practice rules,” said Analy’s soccer coach, Brittany Briones.
The key was making sure the players don’t run afoul of regulations capping the hours of activity they are allowed while also managing their health.
“I’m not the biggest fan of it and the girls know that,” Briones said. “Academically, both girls are extremely bright and have no issue with that. Healthwise, that was a concern for me.”
Some days, Housman and Brown will show up to a soccer training and just sit and watch so as not to overdo it.
For Briones, having their leadership at practices and games makes the compromise worth it. And when they suit up? Their impact is immediate.
“The energy they bring is a huge upside for us,” she said.
Brown, a veteran athlete who plays competitive soccer year-round and has played hoops since she was small, said she understands that bringing energy is the key to making this experiment successful, if for no other reason than to keep her teammates on board with it.
“I work my butt off in both practices,” she said. “I don’t care if I’m dead tired, I’ll work my hardest to prove I’m giving you 100 percent.”
And the scheduling is a group effort. Communication is key. And sometimes it’s the mundane that can trip an athlete up.
For Tukman, that’s the gear issue.