The times we live in are not normal — that is the sentiment that rang from University of Utah Women’s basketball coach Lynne Roberts at her opening press conference on Wednesday, Oct. 14. Roberts was grateful for this opportunity since she thought there might not even be a women’s basketball season in 2020.
“Two months ago, if I was betting, I would have said we wouldn’t have a season,” Roberts said.
COVID-19 has forced colleges and college athletics in particular across the country to make drastic changes, which includes the way coaches are coaching teams as Roberts points out.
“As coaches we like to control everything, COVID has shown us we can’t control a whole lot,” Roberts said.
What is new? A whole lot — there are new testing protocols, a new roster and a new reduced schedule. Roberts has her work cut out for her in terms of the type of season she has coming — perhaps this season will be one of the most challenging seasons in the history of coaching.
“In the morning we all have to fill out contact tracing questionnaire, you go then and get your temperature taken, then you get a wrist band so you can get into the facility, then straight into the testing room for the glorious spit test or for the more rapid testing a swab. Then we have to wait” Roberts said.
As soon as testing results return the team can finally begin practicing. Every person who plays is tested daily, including positional coaches who participate in drills while the rest of the non- playing coaching staff is tested two times a week.
“It’s different but it feels safe and that’s all that matters,” Roberts said.
Safety is something Roberts referred back to constantly throughout her presser. She is extremely grateful Mark Harlan and the University of Utah are working hard to keep her and her players safe.
“Feeling very fortunate to be at the University of Utah and in the Pac-12 where the leadership and guidance and protocols and safety are things that not all my colleagues across the nation have,” Roberts said. “I take this [the threat of COVID-19] very seriously, it is very real to me.”
Through it all, Roberts is excited about the prospects of this season for the Utes. She believes this team is one of the deepest she has ever had — which means the team returns four of its top five scorers.
Roberts believes her freshman that have come to the team has added tremendous value and has been proud of how they have handled the year thus far. “I am really impressed with the whole group, they have had a take it as it comes to attitude, I can’t even imagine being a freshman in college right now,” Roberts said.
Roberts raved over freshman guard Kennady McQueen the Henefer, Utah native. “Kennady is so fun to coach, she’s just a competitor,” Roberts said. “She’s putting numbers up there right with Brynna [Maxwell].”
Maxwell lead the Utes in scoring last year with an average of 13 points per game. Roberts is also excited by the size and length of her team.
“This will be our deepest teams, we have the most weapons, we’re long, athletic and very very skilled,” Roberts said.
That length is cemented by freshman Peyton McFarland who measures in at a towering six feet four inches.
“Peyton [McFarland] she’s got a WNBA body already, and we just need to coach her up” Roberts said.
As practices begin, hope abounds for this team that looks to improve off of a 14-17 record that is by far Robert’s worst record while at the university. A more experienced team looks to make that a one off in the weirdest, newest and most challenging season on record.