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Transcript: Aaron Nelson on the New Orleans Pelicans podcast presented by SeatGeek - April 8, 2020

Daniel Sallerson: What’s going on everyone? Welcome into the Wednesday edition of the Pelicans Podcast, presented by SeatGeek. I’m Daniel Sallerson. Again, I hope everyone remains safe at this time of uncertainty. Coming to you from the house and joining me today a very special guest is Aaron Nelson, Vice President of Player Care and Performance. He’s been quite busy here during this hiatus. First, off Aaron, I appreciate you coming on, and how are you and the family right now?

Aaron Nelson: “Everything is great, thanks for asking. Just trying to fill the days with a little bit of everything…some school, some exercise, some personal time, some video game time, some family time. I’ve actually got to give a couple of haircuts to my boys. A lot of playing catch. I actually started implementing a workout with both my boys; they are 10 and 12 (years old). We workout – I take them through a workout every day. Well, five days a week. There first time actually lifting and doing some things they haven’t done before. So, trying to put on some muscle. And then my wife does yoga with my daughter, our younger daughter. So, we’re all busy trying to fill out the day and keep things going.”

On some of the challenges of doing his job at home during such isolated times:Aaron Nelson: Yeah. The hard thing for me is we, myself, and our staff; we spend a lot of time with these guys…seven days a week, typically whether it's home or on the road. So not to be able to see them in person and physically know how they're doing, I guess up close and personal and trying to do it either through phone call or text or FaceTime, things like that…it's a different way of doing things. There's so much around teleconferencing now. Trying to just make sure – it's a big difference if a player tells me they're good and they feel good and they don't have any symptoms where I can see them and tell them, 'You know what, you don't look good.' So, those are the things you miss. The human element. The human touch. So that part is difficult. The camaraderie that you have not only amongst the staff, the coaching staff, the sports medicine staff, the players, everybody not coming in together, and being together doing the stuff we do on a daily basis. It's a challenge, but we are going to get through it.

On how he communicates with the players and makes sure they are doing well:Aaron Nelson: Well, one of the things that I do every day, seven days a week – I should look I don't even know how many times I've done it now. We're at 24 days of me checking in with all 17 guys. Our 15 roster guys and our two two-way guys and find out how they're doing every day and if they have a thermometer to get a temperature. Are you having any symptoms? We've luckily been good. That's a daily occurrence. It doesn't matter what day of the week it is, and they get back which is great. Everybody's been good but, you just hope in all honestly everybody's inside and being safe and getting that part of it. That's the daily routine for me. About nine o'clock every morning, texting all individually. I don't do it as a group. I want them to feel good about whatever their response is going to be, just one on one. So, I do it all individually. I do about nine o'clock, and then if I don't hear from them by early afternoon, I'll get back to them and ask again how (they’re) doing. Everybody's been great getting that feedback to me. As far as workouts go, that's a little more of a challenge. Jason Sumerlin our strength coach and Stan Williams (who) helps in both the training room and the weight room (have) been great working with the guys, and that's more Zoom conference where they've been using Zoom. The nice thing about that, Jason has a set time that they can get on. He'll send a text out about the workout in the morning early, about 7:30 a.m. our time. So, guys can get on it and do it whenever they want or guys can join the Zoom time that Jason puts out there and then he records it now and they can go back and do the workout at home. The challenge is, and I know everybody hears and talks, ‘Well, what are the athletes doing at home?' I know that's a question coming up, so I'll answer that more later. But, the communication is a little bit of everything. Some of it’s texts, some of it’s Zoom, some of it’s FaceTime. If they have a question specifically about something physical with their body. Luckily we haven't had any guys get injured during this time, that I am aware of. But if they have that we can FaceTime. They have FaceTime to figure out what a specific exercise may look like, or they didn't quite get in the text that goes out. So, it's a little bit of everything. The normal day-to-day is a text to each individual guy. That may translate into some more stuff because they might have questions about their family or friends or things like that.

On what programs and things the training staff have implemented to help keep the players in shape:Aaron Nelson: Well, the nice thing is right before we closed down the facility, we had a meeting. Griff (David Griffin) got everyone together, and we had a meeting. A lot of guys took some of the equipment from the facility to use while we're kind of locked down. At that time, Jason went around and (asked) everybody, ‘What do you have at home? What would you need to do a workout that we would like to do with them at home?’ Obviously, it's not having a full weight room, a full arsenal of cardio equipment, a couple basketball courts. Unfortunately, that doesn't work for anybody right now. But, if we can get some dumbbells, some kettlebells, an assault bike, some tubes, things like that. So, we got a list for every guy, worked with a company to get it delivered and set up so guys have the equipment that we know that they would need to at least do the workout that we are going to present for them. So guys can do that workout. They can do it on their own. They may have other people they are working out with during this time. So, programs are sent to the guys five days a week. We give them Saturday and Sunday off and then expect them to work out. The cool thing Jason will send out the workout in the morning, it consists of a warmup, some stretching exercises. Obviously, we want to still implement our corrective program, so they have some stretching exercises and then a warmup. Then there's two circuits that they'll go through, and most of the circuits are a combination of different types of exercises are cardiovascular movements. So, they might be lunges, they might be iso split squats, some jumps. A lot of kettlebell work, dumbbell work if they have it. Put into a circuit, and they'll go through that a few times. Jason will always record his through his activity app on his (Apple Watch) and he'll post it on the group text that we have with all the players. You can see how long he went, what his ‘calories burned’ was, his heart rate, stuff like that which is really cool because that seemed to be pretty good for the guys that are following it. It kind of sets a goal and a challenge to beat Jason. So, it's been good. That's what we're doing five days a week. If guys want more they can do more. If they want less we try to encourage them to at least do that to get their heart rate up. Again, none of this unfortunately mimics being on a basketball court or being in our facility doing the stuff we need to do. But, eventually we will get back to that. So, right now, it's doing everything we can to try to keep them in the best shape we can.

On how the Pelicans staff can track player workouts from home:Aaron Nelson: There are some different apps out there. We can see what they're doing if they want to send it to us. The cool thing with a lot of – I should say most of our guys have; I think everybody has iPhone, and most of them have the (Apple Watch). So, if they're doing the activity, we have had guys post – whenever Jason posts they'll post their activity, so we can see what they did and compare it, rag each other…try to motivate each other through that way. Then a lot of it like we've said is Zoom. If they get on and do the workout during that time and see them going and try to push them that way. If guys need individual motivation, all of us are available to do that. If they want to run and they have a hill by their house with them and nobody else around, then we can put together a quick hill workout. So it's unique, I guess, from the standpoint of our workouts. Corrective programming is unique to the individual. This is just another case of making it unique to the individual to what they have at their house and what they have near them that they can utilize just to stay fit…and then hopefully they can even show us. Sometimes its FaceTime. Sometimes it's them shooting the activity from their iPhone. But it's been good.

On the biggest challenges once the players can come back to the facility:Aaron Nelson: Yeah. To be honest with you, I'm not overly concerned about the actual normal fitness level of our guys. It will take a while. It will take a few weeks. Who knows, it depends how long we are off. As long as the guys are staying in shape and doing what they need to do to be healthy, it won't take as long. The biggest concern is the rest for muscular tendon injuries. They haven't been exploding. They haven't been jumping and cutting and doing the stuff that they would need to do that's only replicated on a basketball court. So, there's going to be some time needed to ramp that up. I have no idea like everybody else. I'm not sure what's going to happen as far as the season coming back. Hopefully it does, and if that's the case, hopefully we'll get our guys back in the facility, and we can start ramping them up a couple weeks before we actually practice, just to focus on those things…focus on the tendons, focus on the muscular endurance…things that they might have been lacking a little bit by being secluded and working out in a semi-isolated area.

On ways to stay fit when being at home for the general public:Aaron Nelson: That's a great question. In all honesty I think you can do – you and I, anybody – I mean we can all do anything at our home. We don't need a great gym. We don't need an awesome practice facility. If we're really just trying to be healthy and stay in shape and move better, you're going to start off with a lot of bodyweight and balance anyway. 80 percent of our population suffers from some type of back pain. You can use this time to use a foam roll and get through your adductors, your vastus lateralis, your bicep, your hamstring. Work on your hip flexibility and take some of that stress off of your back. One of the biggest things, it's fun because I consider three of my three kids fairly athletic; they cannot balance at all. And we know this as, through populations doesn't matter if you're eight years old if your 28 years old, or you’re 68, 78. We tend to have an issue with balance, so that's a lot of things we can do at home starting off with double legged squats and lunges. You don't need weights to do that. Then go to single-leg where we are really working on our balance and working on different planes of motion. Going to the frontal plane which is just going forward…the sagittal plane, which you're going side to side…the transverse plane, where you’re kind of doing a rotational move. But then balancing and just being able to stand on one leg and hold that for a period of time without falling down. I think a lot of them sound, 'Oh I can do that. I can do that.' If everybody listening (wants to) stand in place, close your eyes and set a timer for 30 minutes and see if you can hold that position without falling down. I think the majority of people would have an issue standing in one place on two feet, let alone one foot. If you go to one foot and close your eyes and try to stand there for 20, 30 seconds, you'll be all over the place. So, we can do a lot of things at home. You obviously can use furniture. You can use the chair to do tricep dips and push-ups off of a chair instead of the floor. There are so many different unique things that you can do. I actually put together a few videos that they're going to put on the (#HomeTeamTV). I don't know if it's this Friday or not, but that was fun: trying to find some things that you can do with all ages. So, I had my eight-year-old daughter, my 10-year-old, 12-year-old son, my wife, myself all doing different things at different ages at different levels, and we didn't need anything. There were no weights involved what so ever. Now if we're the 'weekend warrior' and we're just missing that type of activity. We're playing pickup basketball two or three days a week, and we can't do that…yeah, you're going to get bored trying to do some things at home. But, really working on balance and coordination and stability will go a long way, not only keeping us healthy when we return to those sports but just in our general lives. I mean, especially as we get older, it's easy. We take a step and you don't have good balance and you fall down, you get hurt. I mean, it's a perfect time to take advantage and try to correct a lot of these dysfunctions.