Before he accepted the Brooklyn Nets‘ offer to become their new general manager, Sean Marks knew the job would be demanding. After all, for a team which won only 21 NBA games last season, conventional methods might not do the trick. That’s why Marks and the rest of the front office started looking out of the box. Instead of focusing on the basketball world, they decided to take a cue from the armed forces. Specifically, the Navy SEALs.
On June 9, the Nets announced the forming of a new performance staff team. This team should be focusing on training and rehabilitation, as well as allowing the players to reach their maximum performance. Lloyd Beckett will take over as the main trainer, Den Meehan was named the head conditioning coach, while Aisling Toolan will be the new director of physical therapy. The team will be led by Zach Weatherford, who became the franchise’s first director of player performance. Weatherford is also the most intriguing addition to franchise, considering his Navy SEAL background. But let’s back up a bit, shall we?
After graduating from the University of Arkansas, Weatherford joined the U.S. Olympic Program. He remained a part of it in different capacities from 2000 to 2009, joining the staff for three different Olympic Games (2004, 2006 and 2008). During the first four years, he served as one of the team’s strength and conditioning coordinators. From 2004 to 2007, he was the main video specialist for the U.S. snowboard squad. After that, he was promoted to the position of the committee’s physiologist. During this period, he led a team of human performance professionals which helped prepare 17 Olympic Team programs. If this rings a bell, that’s because his new job at the Nets should be fairly similar.
From 2010 to 2014, Weatherford was the performance program manager for the Group ONE of the U.S. Naval Special Warfare. In 2015, he became the performance manager for the Naval Special Forces Command. While he was not a Navy SEAL himself, Weatherford was in charge of overseeing the performance of close to 8,500 active-duty personnel. As a member of one of the top U.S. military ops groups, there’s no doubt he had access to some incredibly advanced human performance studies. Once you add the unlimited budget and years of data that the U.S. military can provide, you can start to see why Sean Marks was so interested in Weatherford’s services. At his official appointment, he was introduced as one of the world leaders in the athletic performance field. Considering these impressive credentials, that was definitely not an exaggeration.
Though assembling a new performance team is not quite as flashy as signing a star free agent, every rebuild has to start somewhere. Sports science, injury prevention and performance enhancement are all incredibly important parts of a respected basketball program. The fact that the new front office is paying attention to these things speaks volumes about the franchise’s ambitions. You might not hear a lot about Zach Weatherford and his team in the future, but rest assured they will be an integral part of this organization.
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