Kathleen Payne has spent much of her life on the basketball court.
Payne played four years at Plattsburgh State University, leaving a legacy of being the school’s all-time leading scorer and rebounder. These accolades landed her All-American recognition.
Because of Payne’s great success during her collegiate career, coming out of college Payne had aspirations of playing basketball overseas. She has some tryouts with different teams, but realized maybe continuing her career as a player wasn’t in the cards.
“After I graduated I did a couple tryouts with possible overseas opportunities, didn’t hear anything back from them so it was the end of September in 2014 and my college coach asked me if I’d be interested in coaching,” Payne said. “The Clarkson coach was interested in me being a grad assistant, so I had a phone call with the coach from Clarkson. I went on a visit there and I just enjoyed being there so I made the decision to see what coaching would be like.”
After spending a season at Clarkson as an assistant, Payne found that coaching was a good investment. She coached at two other programs before getting the job here at Castleton, most notably at St. Rose. Payne’s college coach again played a pivotal role in her decision to come to Castleton.
“I was at St. Rose for the past three years and I realized becoming a head coach was something I wanted to pursue. I applied and did a couple interviews, but nothing really came to fruition until my college coach reached out about Castleton’s head coaching job opening up because Tim took the position as athletic director,” Payne said. “She thought it would be a really fit but before I knew it, Tim called me to gauge my interest in the job.”
During the interview process, Payne felt encouraged about possibly being a part of the Castleton campus as a head coach. Payne had a different experience here when meeting all the coaches saying she could tell Castleton is a very tight-knit environment. Each coach had similar outlooks on what the schools provided and they always seemed willing to help Payne get settled in as a coach here.
Payne’s objective in her first year as head coach is simple, and that is to be patient with herself as she steps into a new challenge.
“One thing I don’t want to do is to be too hard on myself, knowing that I’m not gonna get everything right the first time. So instead of being too hard on myself I want to learn from those experiences,” Payne said.
Payne has been in various different coaching situations over the past couple years. Her development as a coach has definitely been influenced through the programs she’s been a part of. Payne has instilled the importance of communication within her program, as she believes communicating is essential to success.
“I’m never going to ask my players to do anything I wouldn’t have done and I think being open to conversation without the threat of it being looked at as a dictatorship is important,” Payne said. “I want them to be able to come to me as a human and talk to me about anything.”
Communicating well as a team helps both on and off the court because you’ll be able to help teammates and coaches become more accountable for the things they need to get done, she said. If players can point to and figure out things on their own, it makes for better team culture because everybody then is on the same page.
Coming off a good season in 2022-23 season, the women’s basketball team is looking to build upon what was a coming out party for the team last season. The team lost in the LEC semifinals last season and are looking to possibly win it all this season. Payne is looking to replicate some of that success last year by instilling the right work ethic and focus.
“I think if we’re working hard and paying attention to the right things, I don’t see why we can’t get back to where we were and maybe surprise some people in the LEC tournament this season,” Payne said.
Payne’s style of coaching is certainly player driven, trying to make her players feel valued without the feeling of her being an authoritarian over the decisions they make.
“I would say I’m more of a players coach. We have low numbers right now so me and my assistant are hopping into practice right now,” Payne said. “I value the communication piece because as we’re going through new things especially on the court, it’s important for us to talk through things and different situations to help us figure it out together. And of course, I like to poke fun at them sometimes.”