Katie Hogarth ISU soccer

Idaho State goalkeeper Katie Hogarth kicks the ball upfield during a game at Montana on Oct. 6, 2019, in Missoula, Montana.

Although the Big Sky Conference postponed its football schedule to the spring on Aug. 7, other Big Sky fall sports remained in limbo for a week.

The Big Sky finally decided to do the same with all other fall sports — soccer, volleyball and cross country — on Thursday, six days after the football announcement.

The announcement capped a week of waiting for Idaho State soccer coach Debs Brereton and volleyball coach Sammi Stuart, who spoke to the media on Friday to discuss their seasons being postponed.

“It was frustrating, but it’s less frustrating because we actually have direction now,” Stuart said. “We were just sitting in limbo. You could have a season, you might not have a season. So right now, when the announcement came, we had direction and we can move forward with our team. ... I think that’s the biggest thing for student-athletes. They were just sitting on a bench waiting for someone to tell them what to do.”

The coaches found out about the postponement Wednesday night and spent most of Thursday in meetings with players.

It’s a crucial time for both sports, with Brereton and Stuart welcoming the majority of their players back to campus in the past two weeks.

Volleyball was scheduled to start practice Friday, with the soccer team starting fall training this week. They’ll continue to go ahead with practices, only they won’t be preparing for games this fall.

Despite the interruption, though, both coaches were determined to look on the bright side of the postponement — and both teams could be in a place where an extra four or five months before playing is a benefit, rather than a letdown.

Both Brereton and Stuart are heading into just their second years at the head of their programs, and the extra time will give them both an opportunity to continue settling in and building relationships with their players.

“I’m glad there’s a year under the belt, because had this been Year 1, I probably wouldn’t know which way is up at the moment,” Brereton said. “I feel much better going through this knowing that there’s an awesome support system here, so that’s why we’re able to keep our heads above water and keep moving forward.”

The extra time is especially important for Brereton, who brought in 18 new players after going 2-14-3 a year ago. With only seven returners, she was facing the task of sorting very quickly through the newcomers, at least some of whom would have had to play right away.

Now, she has more time to evaluate her roster and get everybody on the same page.

“With 18 new players, it certainly is a little bit of a blessing in disguise for our team, because now instead of two weeks, we have four months to really get them some work,” Brereton said.

Stuart, who brought in five new players to nine returners, doesn’t have quite the same task ahead of her, but will also benefit.

Instead of having to completely overhaul her lineup, Stuart will be able to drill down on fundamentals in a way that college coaches rarely have time to.

“When I was first hired in May 2019, I didn’t really get to see my kids until Aug. 10, the first day of practice, so we jumped right into it,” Stuart said. “And then this spring that got canceled, we were doing some good stuff, but I didn’t get what I wanted to put in place. So that was another missed opportunity for me to put fundamentals at the forefront.

“So right now, with this time that we have, I’m going to put a major focus on fundamentals.”

It’s uncertain as of now what the fall practice schedule will look like. The NCAA still has to release guidelines for sports that aren’t competing in the fall.

But both Brereton and Stuart are ready to get going.

“Whatever comes our way, dodge it or run with it,” Stuart said. “My mom just kept telling me, I’d call her up and say, ‘I’m so mad.’ She’d say, ‘Just remember that you can’t do a dang thing about it, so just deal with it as it comes.’ I’ve appreciated that, and me personally, I’m just going to take it with some fun and a sense of humor because if you’re a Debbie Downer, nobody wants to be around you.”

Future Questions

What’s also uncertain is what a potential spring schedule will look like, but the timing of the announcement gave Stuart some confidence.

“They made the decision early enough that they should now have in place what it looks like, because they have time to brainstorm and put stuff in place,” Stuart said. “Had we went forward with this (fall) season, there would have been a lot of unknowns, and that’s what’s scary. But now they have two or three months to say, hey, here’s the plan, and they can have contingency plans.”

Questions have swirled about potentially playing a football season in the spring and then rolling right into another one in the fall, with concerns about recovery time and potential injuries at the forefront of that conversation.

Neither Stuart nor Brereton thought that would be an issue in their sports.

“I think it’s brilliant,” Brereton, a former college and professional soccer player, said. “For a player to get two seasons in one year, talk about development. Collectively, as a team, individually. The strides we’ll make in 2021 are going to be unbelievable. I kind of wish I was playing again.”