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JR Payne details offseason plans amid the pandemic

Head women's basketball coach JR Payne went into details with BuffsCountry on the current communication with her team and her plans for the offseason.

At the end of last season, Colorado’s women’s basketball felt they had their first chance at a postseason in three years taken away from them. Now, it’s on to next season and another chance to earn themselves a shot at the postseason.

The Pac-12 says the team can start working on that, voluntarily, in-person starting June 15.

For now, most of the team is spending time at home. With no in-person workouts allowed, the Pac-12 is only allowing coaches to run film sessions over video chat. Teams are still allowed to send their players' workouts, but they can’t require them.

Even though physical health for the student-athletes is important, head women's basketball coach JR Payne worries about the toll the coronavirus situation is taking on the players’ mental health.

“For these ladies, their lives for as long as they can probably remember, have revolved around sports. Basketball and the weight room and all of that is a very big part of their happiness and their joy,” Payne said. “That for me is the main reason that I want them to be able to get back and training, it is more so that they can find their happy place again.

“I FaceTime the players a lot and we do a Friday family zoom, so every Friday the whole team gets on together. We talk and connect and play some fun games,” Payne said. “The main reason we talk to them every single week, is not really to see how the workouts are going, it’s more to see how they’re doing.”

Payne spoke to BuffsCountry over Zoom, before the Pac-12’s announcement on the date in-person workouts could resume. Her goal for the date her athletes could return to practice matched the schedule set by the Pac-12.

“I’m hoping that our team can come back in the middle of June, and then they would quarantine for probably two weeks when they arrive back in Boulder. That would allow them to start training in our facilities July 1,” Payne said at the time.

The NCAA left that decision up to conferences and individual schools. Colorado could be playing other teams during the season who started offseason workouts earlier or later than the Buffs. Payne thinks any advantage teams gain during the offseason workouts would go away by the time the season comes around.

“I think players are training, on their own,” Payne said. “I think people that are as dedicated as these Pac-12 athletes are, they’re finding a way to make it happen.”

Once the season does begin, the team expects to play all of the non-conference and conference games. Payne says Colorado has not heard from any school that doesn’t think they’ll be able to play once the season begins.

In a conference call with reporters last week, Athletic Director Rick George said he is optimistic sports will be able to return in the fall.