Lachlan Penfold knows what winners are made of—that much is clear. That’s almost certainly the reason the Golden State Warriors brought him on as Head of Physical Performance and Sports Medicine. He has not let the reigning NBA champs down.
His first year has been a fantastic success by any measure. The Warriors opened the season by going 24-0—the best start to a season of any professional team in all of the major American professional sports. They finished the 2015-16 regular season with a record of 73-9, breaking the record for wins in a single season that stood for two decades. Suffice it to say that his approach seems to be working.
Penfold oversees the physical preparation and sports medicine teams and is responsible for the implementation of many of the team’s sports science practices. From GPS and heart-rate stats recording during training sessions to SportVU intel delivered in real time during games, he uses every bit of data he can to make sure that his athletes stay on track with their strength training, treatments, recovery, and lifestyle.
“The most important thing is trying to ensure that there is a balance of physical and lifestyle factors,” Penfold said of his approach to getting peak performance from his athletes. “At the end of the day, we don’t just want to make them better players,” he said. “We want them to live better lives.”
Penfold moved to the Bay Area from his native Australia—a country known for its state-of-the-art sports science programs—where his career was as varied as it was successful. The list of different sports he’s been involved with is exhaustive: baseball, softball, track and field, cricket, rowing, rugby, water polo, beach volleyball, and Australian rules football, among others. His athletes have brought home bronze, silver, and gold in three different Summer Olympic games, and most recently he served as Head of Performance and Science for the Sydney Roosters, who won the Premiership in 2013 (the Australian equivalent to the Super Bowl). Winning is not something he’s had to adjust to.
So what is something he’s had to adjust to since moving here last summer? It’s not the weather, which he said is pretty similar to Sydney’s climate. He didn’t even mention the food. Rather, it’s the language barrier.
“When I first arrived, I would talk to some of the players and they would have these blank looks on their faces,” Penfold said. But that confusion was a two-way street. Penfold admits to asking players to repeat themselves two or three times for it to sink in. “We use the same words, but we speak a different language.”
That may be true. But there’s no denying that Penfold and the Warriors are fluent in the only language that matters on their level: winning.