Chelsea Lane: The Warriors' Wonder Woman
When the cameras pan across the Golden State Warriors bench, we, of course, see all the players, either catching their breath or waiting for their turn to step on the court. Then we see Coach Steve Kerr, assistant coach Mike Brown and the rest of the coaching staff. When the camera zooms out a little a few more Warriors’ staff members are visible and among them, you might also see a tall blond lady, often sporting a t-shirt.
Now that lady is a very important member of the three-time championship winning team. That lady is Chelsea Lane, the head performance therapist for the Warriors. Put in simple terms, she is their sports medic. Put in even simpler terms, she is the one who keeps the boys healthy and ready for game time. Not at all an easy task in a sport where players face a lot of physical contact, have back-to-back games and travel across the country to play eighty-two regular season games and then the Playoffs and the Finals.
Olympics to NBA & around the world
Chelsea Lane's journey to the NBA has been quite interesting. For anyone associated with sports, the opportunity to work with an organization like the Warriors is a dream come true. But in Chelsea’s case, she didn't apply for the job but the Warriors had approached her. In fact, she didn't know who the Golden State Warriors were and what sport they played. This, by the way, was in 2015, after the Warriors won a Championship.
The distance between Chelsea and the NBA was also geographical. Born and raised in Australia, Chelsea wanted to be an athlete. But after realizing she was more passionate about science than sport, she turned towards helping athletes. She had spent nine years working with New Zealand's Olympic teams. In 2015, she was in Beijing with the New Zealand squad when the Warriors emailed her about the role they were creating in their team. After a few weeks she moved to Oakland and for the last three years, she has been managing a staff of twenty-five people tasked with keeping the players ready, both physically and mentally.
The most important person for the MVPs
Due to various injuries to multiple starting players, this season has been a challenging one for the Warriors. The champions came very close to being knocked out of the race, when the Western Conference Finals against the Houston Rockets went to seven games. Two-time MVP Steph Curry and 2015 Finals MVP Andre Iguodala were out for extended periods and Chelsea Lane was tasked with bringing them back to on their feet.
In the case of Steph Curry’s rehab, she stayed back in Oakland to help him while the team traveled. In one of the press conferences, Curry credited Chelsea and also mentioned how she helped in staying sane and focused. The mental toll that injuries take on a player, is less talked about and Chelsea Lane is known for focusing on the mental aspects too. She had worked around the clock to bring back Andre Iguodala, who is a key defender on LeBron James.
The other Splash-Brother, Klay Thompson, suffered a high-ankle sprain in Game 1 of the NBA Finals after a collision with the Cavaliers' J.R. Smith. His return in the same game and the subsequent games was questionable. But Chelsea got him up and running. Klay’s dad Mychal Thompson, a former NBA player, and two-time champion, called her a “miracle-worker” for bringing back Klay.
A true professional
She maintains a great level of anonymity despite working for an extremely high-profile team - a team with three titles, two MVPs, a host of superstar players and a coach with eight rings. One of the main reasons for her anonymity is that she doesn’t talk to the press and stays away from social media. But she is a valuable member of the team.
It is not only about taking care of the players but also advising the coaching staff. Coach Steve Kerr is known to factor her in his final opinion while making game-time player-related decisions. Chelsea and her team work on plans for each athlete to manage and if possible, prevent injuries. Injury management and injury prevention are observed quite closely in the NBA. Right from diet and nutrition to sleeping patterns, all parameters are monitored by her staff, for each player on the team.
On the sporting stage
Being a woman in a male-dominated locker room is not easy, especially a room that would be emotionally charged before and after a game. But the player and the staff have immense respect for Chelsea. She is known to be extremely professional, smart and witty. She is known to crack little jokes when she sees players falling into depression due to recurring injuries. Taking care of athletes on one of the biggest sporting stages is no easy job but Chelsea Lane has helped this team win their third championship.
In one of the very few interviews that she had given, when asked about the perks of working in the NBA, she jokingly said that she gets to eat amazing food and has at least two meals with the team and she also seems to get a lot of free shoes. The Warriors closed out the Finals on a high note, with a sweep against the Cleveland Cavaliers. A season where multiple team members suffered severe injuries. Every team member of the Warriors had contributed in the championship run and Chelsea Lane is one woman who helped the boys get their rings.