HMMR Podcast Episode 238: Adapt and overcome (with the Melbourne Storm)

Sports around the world have been thrown into disarray due to the pandemic. The chaos brought some teams together and tore others apart. The Melbourne Storm seemed to get stronger as the year went on and just ended their 2020 campaign last month as National Rugby League champions. Performance director Lachlan Penfold and strength coach Dan di Pasqua join us on this week’s episode to look back at the difference makers for the team this year, as well as the evolving role of strength and sports science in the high performance model.

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Notes and quotes

Lachlan Penfold is currently with the Melbourne Storm where he helped them win two premierships, two minor premierships, and one runner-up finish in four seasons. He previously worked with the Golden State Warriors as they set the NBA record for most wins in a season, helped the Sydney Roosters to an NRL title, supported Australian softball winning Olympic silver, as well as many other top teams along the way. Daniel di Pasqua is the head strength coach for the Melbourne Storm, where has worked for the past 15 years.

  • 0:00 – Introduction
  • 3:45 – Difference makers during the pandemic: “Our club is driven by consistency and routine. They are simple principles, but when times are chaotic you need those to call back on.” “At the end of the day, guys just get on with the job and get it done. Everyone will whine about different things at different times. You can just get lost in all that sort of stuff. But we never did. We just focused on the next job.”
  • 8:00 – Leadership in a pandemic: “When you’re playing games or you’re training, you’re not just training physically your training and reinforcing mental beliefs. Our mentality was adapt and overcome.”
  • 9:00 – Planning during and post-lockdown.
  • 13:00 – Post-lockdown injury analysis and reintroducing contact.
  • 18:00 – Lessons from the pandemic: “COVID exposes your culture and why you do what you do.”
  • 23:00 – Making sacrifices.
  • 28:45 – The evolving role of S&C in the performance equation: “We can get them fitter and stronger, but all those things don’t matter if they can’t play football. So it’s how you integrate within the football system. There can’t be an ego about strength numbers. An S&C does his job if athletes are strong and robust and can train really well and play really well.”
  • 36:00 – Westside influence.
  • 38:00 – Assessing strength in context of the game: “It’s not necessarily the strongest guys aren’t getting injured. The guys who don’t get injured have high physical literacy and just are in tune with their bodies.”
  • 41:00 – Addressing endurance and work capacity in the weight room.
  • 44:45 – Monitoring and wellness. “Players need to start learning about their bodies and where they’re at and what they need to do to get themselves right. You want to do as much as you can to help them play as best as possible, but then when you do too much for them that they become reliant on you.” “Communicating with athletes as much as possible on a daily basis is the best monitoring system for us.”
  • 53:00 – Trusting your staff instead of following the crowd: “We track performance, not necessarily fatigue of wellness. The ultimate goal is to raise performance. not avoid fatigue.”
  • 55:15 – Final thoughts on leadership. “A lot of teams are turning to young coaches and staff, but experience matters in hard times. You can’t put a price on that. Experience means you’re recruiting someone who has already made their mistakes.”

To hear more on these topics, listen to the full episode above. Also be sure to subscribe to our podcast and review it on iTunes.

Further reading

  • This episode is brought to you by HMMR Plus. Become a member for full access to our videos, articles, and podcast archives. This month’s site communication and coaching. Stay tuned for more on the topic.
  • Penfold was a guest on Episode 62 where he discussed his experiences working with the Golden State Warriors. He went in more detail on training team sports on GAINcast 184 earlier this year and GAINcast 131.
  • Before his success with the Melbourne Storm, Penfold also helped the Sydney Roosters to championships. He broke down his approach with Sydney in GAIN Video 4: Lessons from the Sydney Roosters available for HMMR Plus members to stream.
  • You can find both Penfold and di Pasqua on Twitter (@lachlanpenfold and @dan_dipasqua).