It’s certainly not ideal to go through a basketball workout while occasionally lifting a mask to wipe sweat off the face, or needing to change out a sweat-soaked mask altogether.
For Colorado women’s basketball coach JR Payne, however, it’s a small price to pay for the opportunity to get back on the court with her players.
“It’s just been awesome to see each other again,” Payne said.
CU began in-person workouts on July 20, marking the first time Payne had been on the court with her players since mid-March. At that time, the Buffs (16-14, 5-13 Pac-12) were practicing in anticipation of a bid to the Women’s NIT when the coronavirus pandemic canceled college sports, pro sports and activities around the world.
After more than four months of connecting remotely, the return to workouts was a blessing, Payne said, even if it includes wearing masks.
“I think they miss basketball so much, and even just being in the weight room and stuff,” she said. “They’d do anything to be able to play, so they’re getting used to (new protocols). They’re doing fine. The coaches are, too.”
The Buffs typically get together in the summers for workouts, but this one is quite different.
For starters, most, but not all, of the players are in Boulder. And, the coaches can’t hold full-team workouts with those in town because of social distancing guidelines.
“(CU senior associate athletic director for health and performance Miguel Rueda) and his team came up with a really great plan for the facilities,” Payne said. “They spent a lot of time trying to figure out how we can make this work and so we’re in functional groups.”
All players have been tested for COVID-19 (with no reported positive tests) and masks are worn the entire time players and coaches are inside the facilities. Coaches are allowed to be on the court with players four hours per week and Payne said it’s “very regimented” for when people are allowed to come to the CU Events Center.
In the past, players could come to the CEC and put up shots or work out whenever they wanted. There is now a structured schedule for when players can come and go.
Initially, players were surprised to hear they’d have to wear masks throughout workouts and their entire time at the CEC, but Payne said, “From that shock to now when they’re training every single day in the mask, I think we’re realizing that there’s things we can do we didn’t necessarily think we wanted to or could do.
“I don’t know how that’s all going to evolve, but I know that we’re learning and getting better at it every day.”
While there is uncertainty about the fate of the fall sports season in college athletics, as well as how that will impact basketball, Payne said she’s pleased with the efforts at CU to stay safe.
“I think we’re learning every day, every week,” Payne said. “I just know that I feel very confident in our leadership (at CU) and what tools and resources they’ve given us to make this work.
“It’ll just be really important for our for our young people – especially when so many students come back in a few weeks – it’ll be really important for our student-athletes to remember the behaviors that they’re growing and learning right now and continue to be super, super vigilant in that when the rest of the kids come back.”
Freshman Frida Formann, from Denmark, is the only one of CU’s five newcomers not in Boulder, but she’s expected to be on campus for the start of classes. … Travel restrictions had kept sophomore guard Zuzanna Kulinska, from Gdynia, Poland, in Boulder, but she was able to return home this week for the first time in a year. After a brief visit, she’ll return next month. … With the exception of a couple of contracts still not finalized, CU’s non-conference schedule is set. If there is a season, the Buffs’ schedule includes road games at Wisconsin and Denver and home dates with Air Force, Colorado State and San Francisco.
Brian Howell: firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @BrianHowell33.