Basketball New Zealand (BBNZ) are thrilled to announce that Chelsea Lane will be leading its HP programme as the new Head of High Performance (HP). This pivotal leadership role includes leading all HP programmes across both genders, from all national age group levels up to the Tall Ferns, Tall Blacks and their 3X3 equivalents.
Originally an Australian-trained physiotherapist, Lane re-located to New Zealand in the early 2000’s to work as a performance therapist with the Academy of Sport, supporting Kiwi athletes with their Olympic campaigns across a wide range of sports. When High Performance Sport New Zealand (HPSNZ) was formed as a national entity, Lane re-located to Auckland to continue her work with national team athletes – focussing on understanding how to pull in the needs of athletes, their coaches and support networks to meet a range of targets.
In 2015 the NBA came calling; the Golden State Warriors reached out to Lane to offer her a role developing their world-class basketball athletes in a performance therapy role. After a year in the role, the Warriors promoted Lane to Head of Performance – Chelsea now responsible for a team whose responsibility was to care for the physical, mental and emotional wellbeing of the players. The two years in this role were extremely successful for Lane, resulting in a pair of NBA championship rings for her and the Warriors.
Following this Lane was shoulder-tapped by another NBA team in the Atlanta Hawks, who were planning a total rebuild and wanted her to re-shape their performance programme. The opportunity to re-build a group of young athletes from the ground up was too good to ignore, so Lane moved to Atlanta and joined the Hawks as their Director of Performance. Chelsea was soon elevated into a Vice President role with the team, spending three years with the Hawks organisation before returning to New Zealand in 2021, where she has been consulting for the past 12 months.
Lane says that the desire to return to Aotearoa was strong for her and her husband.
“We decided that if we didn’t come home now, then we’d never come home. I loved the Hawks and being in Atlanta, but I had been there through a lot of unrest in the US and when Covid first began to disrupt the world – so when a few family things aligned and that decision to move home became possible, we found ourselves back here,” says Lane.
Lane says that her time in the NBA with the Warriors and Hawks was a huge step up in her career – which at times was a steep learning curve.
“The Warriors were a very talented group of men, and not only was I leading a group of multi-disciplinary professionals including doctors, psychologists, nutritionists – you name it – to get the best out of these athletes, it was culturally a huge change for me as well.
“I was the only Non-American in the Warriors leadership group and the only woman; in fact I became the first woman in the NBA in a role like this in its 75-year existence. The learning curve became even steeper at the Hawks, but I had great support in a massive role – which was responsible for getting the best out of these young and talented athletes.”
Lane says that she jumped at the chance to be part of BBNZ when the role was advertised.
“During my 12 months back in New Zealand I had been privileged to spend some time with BBNZ and their national teams, coaches and support staff. So when the role came up, it felt like the stars were aligned as I’d already had so many positive interactions with BBNZ and basketball in this country; I thought ‘I can actually be useful here, I think I can help’.”
Lane believes that her background as a physio and performance therapist, combined with her high performance and people management experience in the NBA, makes her uniquely able to understand how to get the best out of athletes and staff in the high performance space.
“I know of no other way to operate to get the best out of humans – who are incredible complex and capable of achieving amazing things, if we can speak to all facets of them and remember that while they’re doing superhuman things, they’re still human. Psychotherapy as a rule speaks to that holistic mindset, and it’s served me well over the years; but what serves me more is that I’ve seen on repeat the impact of that philosophy and the benefit of it for everybody.”
One of Lane’s philosophies is that you can show a human respect by setting the bar very high for them, then help them to achieve it by providing the resources they need.
“That support might be the traditional high performance things they need to help them run faster and jump higher, but it can also be support in other parts of their lives too; working on things that are roadblocks to them being the best versions of themselves they can be.
“It’s also about being mindful how we define success; I’m here to win, but winning is only one measurement of success – there’s many ways we need to look at how HP can be successful, so if we focus on those multi-faceted successes and the ‘humanity’ part of it, then success can come in a more sustained fashion thanks to a foundation of healthy, happy people.”
BBNZ Chief Executive, Dillon Boucher says that adding Lane to the organisation is a ‘coup’ for all ages and levels of basketball in New Zealand.
“Lane is a game-changer for our High Performance programme, she brings a wealth of international experience to the role as well as a holistic, player-focussed mentality that we believe will help elevate our national teams to a new level,” says Boucher.
“Chelsea’s unique skill-set will help us get the best out of our athletes, staff and high performance programmes going forward, so I’m ecstatic to have her join our team.”
Lane also sees ‘immense’ opportunity for BBNZ’s High Performance programme to grow and achieve results over the next few years.
“I want to take the good work that’s already been done and help ‘push’ it to that next level – we need to be really clear that we understand how we transform this groundswell of participants into performance-level athletes, how do we transition and retain that talent? How do we make sure we don’t lose people along the way by things we can control, how do we help our athletes have a vision of where they’re developing to – a transparent pathway and end point.
“At a high performance level, our end goal is to achieve great results for the nation. So our vision has to be ‘how to I capitalise on a groundswell of participation, on a group of high performers, and turn it into positive results for the nation’. For me this starts by refining what bespoke needs athletes need to perform at each level, and how each group of talented players can transition up to that next level; we want to lose less people along the way, so that we have more choice in talent at the pointy end of things.”
Lane says that as a nation we punch above our weight in many sporting fields, which is incredible given the small pool of athletes a country of our size can draw from.
“Generally speaking in High Performance sport and pro sport, it’s the outliers – the freaks of nature – that really overperform and outperform. So the smaller the population you have, the less outliers you have and the less difference-makers you can find at any one time.
“So in terms of basketball, for us it’s got to be about playing to our strengths; there’s no point trying to match up to a nation with ten times our population, on a global level we have to play the game to serve us and we have to ensure that those outliers – who are talented enough to be on the HP radar – are taken great care of, that we develop them as whole athletes and look after their bodies and minds so they can have long careers.
“Because unlike in the US, there isn’t 25 kids waiting in the wings to replace them; they’re our diamonds and we have to take care of them.”
Lane will join BBNZ as its Head of High Performance next month.