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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.

“It’s kind of crazy to remember which uniform to bring,” she said.

“We pretty much figure it out week by week, sometimes every couple of days,” she said. “Whenever there are games, we always go to games.”

Brown and Housman largely handle their schedules, deciding between them when they can make one practice or two and which team to prioritize when there is a conflict. Case in point: The Tigers soccer team hosted Elsie Allen Wednesday night. A hundred yards away in the gym, the basketball team took on Sonoma Valley.

After some discussion, Housman and Brown chose to suit up for hoops. Other times, one will play for one team while the other suits up for the second sport.

“If basketball is playing a really good team and soccer is playing a less-talented one, then we would both go to basketball,” Housman said. “On the really hard decisions, we just split. That makes it a lot easier for me and makes me feel less guilty.”

For Sam Housman, he said his impact is more important with the soccer team, where he is a starter — so if there is a conflict, he opts in that direction.

And, like his sister, he said he is used to feeling busy.

“There is much less time for procrastination,” he said. “There is not much free time and when I do have it, I either study for a test or do homework. When I’m eating, I take a break and watch TV.”

In one of the more dramatic moves of the young season, both Isabel Housman and Brown were returning from the soccer team’s 2-1 win against Petaluma on Jan. 5 and texting basketball teammates to see how the Tigers were doing against El Molino. They were losing.

“I told my mom, ‘Let’s go home and get my basketball stuff,’” Brown said.

After Brown and Housman arrived sometime in the third quarter, the Tigers built a comeback. They won the game 47-38.

Brown is not taking credit for the victory, but she did think it was important that she and Housman do their best to get there and, perhaps, inject some energy into her teammates.

“We were both saying, ‘Hey, I think we should really go. I think we should be there for our team,’” she said.

At Sonoma Academy, Tukman and Sherley benefit from a schedule that rarely has them working out or competing with two teams in one day. As such, their schedules are Allen Iverson’s dream: loaded with games and very few practices.

“As a player, it’s almost like a dream come true,” Christensen said. “Our schedule worked out unbelievably well.”

But Sherley said she feels that lack of practice hours in her game sometimes, especially in basketball.

“In soccer, I’m fine, because I have been playing year-round,” she said. “In basketball, I have been missing layups and things I should not be missing. I have not made as many shots as I should have.”

And as much fun as not having regular practices sounds, it’s hard to fathom how coaches help teams prepare when two of their key athletes aren’t there. Especially for Christensen: Sherley and Tukman are his starting guard tandem.

“I rely on film,” he said. “I get them in early.”

He also runs the same system he has for years, a system both players have down pat.

But the bottom line for all of the coaches I talked to was this: Yeah, it’s a pain and far from ideal, but these particular players make their teams better, even if they aren’t there every day.

“It’s a lot,” Briones said. “I’m not a huge fan of it, but I know these players can make it work. But in the future? I don’t know.”

Ziemer knows already. This is the end of the experiment. Next year, athletes will have to choose.

But for Tukman and Sherley, he was glad it worked out, headaches and all.

“They are good kids, they work hard. I always know where they are,” he said, laughing.

You can reach staff columnist Kerry Benefield at 707-526-8671, kerry.benefield@pressdemocrat.com, on Twitter @benefield and Instagram at kerry.benefield.

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