Coach Dawn Staley would be prepping the U.S. women’s basketball team for the Tokyo Olympics this week if not for the coronavirus pandemic.
Instead, she’ll hold a Zoom conference call Wednesday with players who are vying for a spot on the roster in 2021, if the postponed Olympics are held next year.
“Although we have things we’re dealing with in our personal lives and our basketball lives, we’ll get together to talk about some things, say hello to each other and get a virtual hug,” said Staley, a three-time Olympic basketball gold-medal winner. “It actually would be Opening Ceremonies in a few weeks.”
Staley says she’s in “constant communication” with USA Basketball officials.
“We’re playing it by ear just like the rest of the country, the rest of the world,” she said.
Now, Staley is focused on getting her South Carolina women’s team back on campus in a safe environment. Her team finished No. 1 in the last Associated Press poll and won the SEC Tournament before the NCAA Tournament was canceled because of the coronavirus. Some players will return in mid-July, but they won’t get on the basketball court until August, she said.
They’ll follow CDC guidelines by wearing masks, social distancing, hand washing and getting tested. Staley is aware the frequent testing may result in positive tests.
“If the numbers are trending in the wrong direction, then we’ve got to pivot,” she said. “Just trying to keep our athletes in a safe space.”
If a player tests positive, she’ll be quarantined and those around her will be tested and quarantined. “The cluster will have to quarantine, not necessarily the whole team,” Staley said.
This summer, her players have been discussing ways to support social justice and the Black Lives Matter movement.
“They are talking about it. I want it to be their voice and not my voice,” said Staley, a Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame inductee. “I just want to support them. (There are) causes that I care about dearly and the ones that hit my heart, that moves me to do something. I’m letting them tell me what they want and getting those people who can help them plan and grow and learn.”
The 50-year-old Staley expects to roll out her own “action plan” on hiring this week. The goal is “numbers trending in the right direction when it comes to hiring Black people and people of color.”
She hopes the plan, with deadlines, provides opportunities in communities and is “a model that other universities and colleges can use to increase their numbers.”