HMMR Podcast Episode 62: The Warrior Way (with Lachlan Penfold)

This year the Golden State Warriors were the buzz of the basketball world after they achieved a record 73 wins in the season. As soon as a team gets successful, the search for the reasons why quickly follow. On this week’s podcast we are joined by Lachlan Penfold, head of physical performance and sports medicine for the Warriors. He shares with us what he saw as keys to the team’s success, how he transitioned from rugby to basketball, and more.

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Penfold joined the Warriors staff last year. Prior to that he was working his native Australia, where he most recently served as head of physical preparation for the Australian Men’s Sevens Rugby Union squad. He also previously served as the head of performance for three years with the Premiership-winning Sydney Roosters Rugby League team, and for six years as the head of physical preparation with the Brisbane Lions Australian Rules football team. With this type of background, we naturally first asked him about what he brought from his rugby and football background to his new job, and then discussed some of the unique aspects of physical preparation for basketball.


More than anything, the difficulties revolve around the schedule. From October until June athletes have up to four games a week. This makes planning difficult, and makes it important that your monitor the loads athletes are under:

When you play 82 games a year, your game workload is your biggest workload. @lachlanpenfold Click To Tweet Classical periodization is non-existent in the NBA. @lachlanpenfold Click To Tweet

There are some advantages though. For one, a small team allows more individualization. It also allows better feedback. Large teams have to rely on technology or formal feedback structures to monitor athletes. You can be more flexible with a small team, and feedback becomes less structured and more informal:

When you have the opportunity to talk to athletes you get better feedback. @lachlanpenfold Click To Tweet

What was the secret of the team’s success? Penfold cite the main reason was they simply had the best player in the world on the team. But beyond that, they had a team that worked together. If everyone puts the team first, you can actually operate as a team and not just a collection of individuals.

Success has a lot to do with talent and how you get that talent to work together. @lachlanpenfold Click To Tweet When the best player on your team is the most humble, you are in a good position. @lachlanpenfold Click To Tweet Fun perpetuates success. Winning creates an enjoyable atmosphere, but having fun reduces stress more. Click To Tweet

He also tackled a few other questions about transfer of training, whether basketball players are indeed the world’s best athletes, and what makes him stand out as a coach. Regarding this last question, his philosophy has changed. What makes him different now is his attention to the non-physical as well as the physical qualities of his athletes:

If you get them to have a better life, they are going to be a better player. @lachlanpenfold Click To Tweet

For more on this topic listen to the full episode. Also be sure to subscribe to our podcast and review it on iTunes.

Further Reading

The following links were referenced in the podcast or provide some additional reading material on the topic:

  • Don’t forget to sign up for the new HMMR Plus membership offering. Our first monthly online hangout is tomorrow, and is available exclusively for Plus members. Sign up and you can also get access to webinars, articles, our sports science newsletter, and more.
  • You can follow Penfold on twitter at @lachlanpenfold.
  • As I mentioned on the podcast, several articles have already popped up looking for the secret that led to 73 wins. Things like brain zapping and other technology are often cited. Read such articles with skepticism.
  • You can read a little more about Penfold’s approach to load management in this interview.
  • On Episode 59 of the podcast Dan Pfaff also talked about the value of subjective feedback of the type Penfold also uses.
  • We brought up Kevin Durant’s lack of strength, which is an interesting case study in transfer. The question of how much strength is enough is something we have tackled on Episode 8 and Vern also addressed on Episode 10 of the GAINcast.
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