|The team's freshmen, from left: forward Cameron Brink, guards Jana Van Gytenbeek and Agnes Emma-Nnopu|
Several themes dominated associate head coach Kate Paye’s comments during a recent phone interview.
Two of them were uncertainty and hope for the Stanford women’s basketball team. Another was pride in how well the players and staff are growing.
Yet another was the challenges the team and university face in light of the coronavirus pandemic gripping the nation.
It’s a “very unusual time,” she said. (Except for a few centenarians), this is everyone’s “first time through a pandemic.”
Everyone went home
It all started March 12 when the NCAA cancelled the tournament, in which Stanford was expected to do well. Instead, the coaches held a team meeting, and all of the players went home.
That’s where they are now, but they’ve adjusted well, Kate said. They’re taking classes online.
Everyone has a place to work out, and strength and conditioning coach Ali Kershner has crafted individual plans.
Players stay in touch
Returning players have created workout videos for the freshmen: guards Agnes Emma-Nnopu and Jana Van Gytenbeek and forward Cameron Brink.
Jana and sophomore forwards Fran Belibi and Ashten Prechtel, who all live in Colorado, have worked out together, sometimes joined by other teammates.
Weekly calls on Tuesdays feature speakers such as SWBB alums Nneka Ogwumike, ’12; and Susan King Borchardt, ’05; along with retired WNBA great Kara Lawson, Duke’s new head coach; and others.
The players also stay in touch through small group Zoom calls. They have to be timed just right because Agnes lives in Victoria, Australia, which is 17 hours ahead of PDT. The staff meets via Zoom, too. “Zoom is our new best friend,” Kate said.
Social unrest adds to issues
On top of coronavirus and all the havoc it has caused, the team is acutely aware of the social unrest sweeping the country as part of the Black Lives Matter movement.
The players have had some tough conversations around this issue. Each week an individual player shares her thoughts in a Facebook video.
It’s “a tremendous learning and growing process. I’m proud of our team,” Kate said.
Two new coaches
Here’s yet another wrinkle. The team has two new assistant coaches, Katy Steding and Britney Anderson.
Katy,’90, head coach Tara VanDerveer’s first signed recruit, helped lead the team to its first national championship her senior year. She played professionally before becoming a coach, most recently at the University of San Francisco. She and her husband, John, have moved closer to Stanford.
Britney comes from coaching at her alma mater, Virginia Tech. She and her mother were on her way to Stanford as Kate spoke.
Katy and Britney succeed assistant coaches Lindy La Rocque and Tempie Brown. Lindy is head coach at the University of Nevada Las Vegas, her hometown.
Tempie moves, stays home with kids
Tempie has stepped away from coaching to be more involved with her family. She and her spouse have moved to Michigan, where her spouse has a new job. Tempie is a stay-at-home mom with their two youngsters, ages 4 and 1.
She’s doing well and stays in touch with her Stanford colleagues.
In the meantime, Kate has had to help her two daughters, ages 9 and 5, with their at-home schooling. It didn’t go well at first, she said, joking that she realized she’s a better coach than elementary school teacher.
Kate gave the interview while on vacation with the girls.
Back to sports, Kate said “it’s really sad” that Stanford Athletics made the tough decision to eliminate 11 varsity sports at the end of the ’20-21 academic year for financial reasons. “These are our family members,” she said.
Uncertainty for international students
Adding to the uncertainty is the status of the team’s two international players, Agnes and senior forward Alyssa Jerome, who lives in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has said that international college students might not be allowed into the country if classes are online only. Stanford, along with other schools, has asked the department to change that stance, Kate said. (That policy was rescinded July 14.)
“We are hopeful of returning (to campus) in the fall, (but) we don’t know,” she said. Classes start Sept. 14.
“We’re trying to keep everybody healthy” in all ways. The players are getting out the message to wear masks, wash hands and maintain social distance.
“There’s so much uncertainty,” she said, summing up the current outlook.
Nevertheless, the team has adopted “Widen the gap” as this year’s theme. It means widening the gap between SWBB and its competitors.
Photos from Stanford Athletics