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One-On-One With Alex McKechnie - Part One

December 8, 2011

More One-On-Ones: McKechnie Pt. 2 | Davis | Casey Pt. 1 | Casey Pt. 2

Before the start of training camp, Jay Satur sat down with the new members of the Raptors' coaching staff to discuss an unusual start to the 2011-12 season and their plans for getting started in Toronto. Next up is director of sports science Alex McKechnie, who discusses his role with the Raptors, the importance of core strength and then challenges ahead with a shortened season.

Jason Satur: Why did you decide to join the Raptors this summer?

Alex McKechnie: Well, I think the first thing is that when I was called and asked if I'd be interested in coming to Toronto, they made it very clear that it was to come to a team that had great aspirations of going places, number one. It's a very attractive city, a great city to live in. Coming back to Canada was nice. I think also the fact that the position itself was not a lateral move for me. It was a very positive move to come in and establish some systems, some protocols that we can implement into the Raptors, which I felt was a huge challenge.

So the challenge itself was number one. The people were very, very persuasive. I was very impressed with the management and the way I was treated coming in.

JS: I've read that Jay Triano had a hand in reaching out and approaching you about this position.

AM: He did, yes. Jay called me, I was in Vancouver after the season and (he) asked if I'd be interested in coming to Toronto. It was that simple and I said absolutely. I've known Jay for a long time from his SFU (Simon Fraser University) days when I was a therapist there and he played. So that's where our relationship goes back nearly 30 years.

JS: Your position is a new one with the organization. What responsibilities come with being the Director of Sports Science?

AM: The idea is to oversee the rehabilitation of our players along with the strength and conditioning components. We will establish solid baselines in terms of fitness, posture, movement and reactive training, which offer us a reference point that we can review throughout the course of the season. We can reference these statistics during the course of injury rehab and we can ascertain improvements or deficiencies throughout the course of the year. So the whole idea is to oversee all of that and establish a good solid foundation for training, for rehabilitation and for prevention.

JS: From your perspective, is establishing that baseline for players the priority now that you can worth with them?

AM: It's a really good question in the sense of 'where do we move from here?' This normally would have been done just after Labour Day and once they get in, it gives us time to work with people. Now we're going to have a shortened season, we don't have the benefit of the pre-season at this point. So we'll have to have a combination of working our programs between on-court practices with coaches. It presents a huge challenge.

I think one of the first things we have to look at is getting a baseline of simple cardio conditioning. We’re hoping that the cardio conditioning is good however, we can’t estimate that. Therefore, that's one thing we'll be looking at. So the lockout has definitely presented some challenges.

JS: From there, is it a matter of tailoring specific programs for specific players?

AM: Absolutely. There's a comment I like to use for questions like that and it's that when we look at rehabilitation and training and conditioning, there's a science to it and once you establish the science the trainer becomes an artist and so it's really painting that individual's picture.

For example, you're not going to do the same things you may for a post-up player as you would for a guard. Totally different approach to the training protocols. In much the same way that we look at a player shooting on his right side as a guy shooting from his left. There's a completely different set of default postures that we look at.

Each player will go through a screening system. Again, this would have been done prior to the season, but we're going to have to do this throughout the course of the year and obviously it's still information that we will have that will be useful for us moving forward.

But the idea is we take each player and screen each player through movement and posture. There's fundamental testing that's done, compared to the testing that's done at the [NBA Draft] combine in Chicago. We will add to things like jump mat testing, which is a system where we measure the amortized time on the floor compared to the height and we get a formula out of that, which gives us power. This information is extremely useful and used as reference points when players return from injury. We can see where they're at relative to where they were. Hence the importance of that is creating a durable return to playing. It also allows us to tailor or rehab program accordingly.

We're going to look at things like a yo-yo test, which is cardio conditioning test. Effectively it's a couple of markings 20 metres apart that you run through and there's a beep that goes off and you have to strike the mark each time over a period of time with a 10-second rest. It cycles through different stages and each stage speeds up and you run until failure. That gives us a baseline for cardio conditioning and it also gives us a baseline to measure players over the course of the year. It also allows us to measure players playing limited minutes.