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JR staying positive through the Payne

CU Buffs women's basketball coach JR Payne has taken a positive approach to the postponement of the season and she trusts the experts.

For two seasons in a row, the women’s basketball team at Colorado will endure a shortened season, after the Pac-12 announced teams would not play any sports for the rest of 2020.

The news was met with "shock and disbelief" to men’s basketball coach Tad Boyle when the conference decided to shorten the season so soon. But head coach JR Payne offered a slightly more measured take.

“I echo Tad’s feelings, because we didn’t really have, until the day before we heard some sort of rumors and chatter about it, but we hadn’t heard anything from the Pac-12 that this might include us,” Payne said. “I'm very positive pretty much all the time, even through these difficult times. We're just taking it one day at a time. About half of our team has been here for a month and a half or so and I'm doing really well so we remain hopeful.”

With many of the non-conference games scheduled for before the new year, Payne acknowledged those games may be a casualty of the novel coronavirus pandemic. But, Payne said she is open to a modified non-conference schedule.

“Obviously, we would have to adjust the games that we have scheduled,” Payne said. “It probably would be a condensed version, perhaps we could pick up more local games if we were dropped by some of the teams that were continuing to play. It’s all so fluid.”

Payne said she continues to worry about the mental health of the athletes, who have had their schedules in flux since last March.

“The last several months, I know a lot of people have talked about the stress and challenges for these student-athletes, even in the months that they were just at home, was really, really difficult,” Payne said. “For most of their lives they have revolved around sport … so this has been a challenging few months … It’s important for us to stay positive and have tangible things that we can work towards, and focus on what we can control.”

One of the largest sources of anxiety all summer was the status of the international players, whether travel restrictions would prevent them from going home or coming back to Boulder.

Payne shared good news with reporters on Wednesday, Charlotte Whittaker and Zuzanna Kulinska were able to return to their homes in New Zealand and Poland, and are now back in Boulder. Frida Formann, a freshman from Denmark is expected to be in Boulder soon.

In the meantime, Payne’s message to the fans is to listen to the experts.

“It's disappointing that it feels like listening to medical experts or following what is recommended by the medical experts has become a political issue,” Payne said. “I'm very happy to say I don't know something, and I'll listen to the people that do know that. I very much listen to people that are more educated than I am in the medical field and I know our team is working really hard to follow the rules and protocols that have been put in place.”