Trainer Feature: Gregg Farnam
Editors: Note: March was National Athletic Training Month, and to celebrate the occasion Timberwolves.com put together a collection of features showcasing the Wolves’ training staff at work. Part IV focuses on Director of Medical Operations/Head Athletic Trainer Gregg Farnam, who is in his 17th season with the Wolves.
For more than a decade, Gregg Farnam has been in charge of the Timberwolves’ training staff. He’s seen trends around the league change during that time, including rule changes overall and schools of thought on the best medical practices, but the one thing that’s remained constant is the dedication toward staying on the cutting edge of athletic health.
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Now in his 17th season with the team and 14th as the Timberwolves’ head athletic trainer, Farnam continues to work toward finding those best training, recovery and recuperating methods. And it begins with that integrated approach on the training and conditioning side.
“From a philosophical standpoint, it’s been an integrated approach,” Farnam said. “Instead of having your athletic trainer, your strength coach in different silos, we’ve tried to bring both parties together just to deliver a better program for the athletes. Not only from rest and recovery, to rehab to strength and conditioning, just so all parties are speaking basically the same language to provide better service to the athlete.”
Farnam’s body of work has allowed him to learn the best practices along the way.
During the offseason, Farnam regularly provides training services for USA Basketball and other NBA initiatives—most recently, he served on the Team USA training staff during their Summer 2013 minicamp. He also served on the Team USA U19 men’s team that won the 2007 FIBA World Championship as well as the gold medal-winning Team USA men’s squad at the 2001 Goodwill Games in Australia.
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In 2010, he traveled to Asia to take part in the NBA’s Basketball Without Borders program.
Farnam graduated with his bachelor’s degree in sports medicine from St. Cloud State University and has a master’s degree in exercise science and health promotions from California University of Pennsylvania. He is a certified member of the National Trainers Association, the National Strength and Conditioning Association and the National Academy of Sports Medicine.
He’s been here with the Wolves since midway through Flip Saunders’ stint as the team’s head coach. After returning this year as the team’s President of Basketball Operations, Saunders said Farnam learned on the job what it takes to be such a successful trainer in the NBA. The biggest component of that is trust, something he’s done a good job of developing with the athletes over the years.
Saunders said Farnam spends time working with players’ agents and getting connected with second opinions when injuries do occur, and he’s also a liaison between doctors.
And on the Wolves’ side, he’s been a key component in helping form how the team gets the players prepared for games and maintained afterwards.
“We’ve been aggressive in what we’ve done,” Saunders said. “We’ve changed some things and how we go about training our players. We do a lot to try and find out where they are from a rest perspective. Whether they need more rest, are they getting the right nutrition? And so we’ve done things outside what you would expect outside the basketball court, in the weight room and then in the training room.”
For Farnam, having Saunders back on board has helped because he’s put focus on supporting the training staff and helping create an environment for success. The group feels like they can try different things and think outside the box. Farnam said Saunders is always challenging the training staff to research and look for different ways to improve.
It’s a relationship between the front office and the training staff that has helped the Wolves stay predominately on the court in 2013-14.
“Flip has always been very well in touch with his players, whether it was as a coach or President of Basketball Operations,” Farnam said. “He understands the dynamics of the game. He feels like he’s got a good approach to support the medical staff, helping us to be creative and think outside the box as far as things we can do with our athletes and how to take care of them.”