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August 16, 2019

Sixers to hire Spurs' Lorena Torres Ronda for role in revamped sports science department

The Sixers are hiring Lorena Torres Ronda, formerly the Sports Scientist Coordinator for the San Antonio Spurs, as the new Performance Director in their revamped sports science department, sources told PhillyVoice on Friday evening.

More staff announcements are expected to be made in the coming days to establish the hierarchy and overall shape of the new department, following the departures of Dr. Daniel Medina and Dr. David Martin earlier this offseason. 

For now, the team has remained relatively tight-lipped on the overall structure of the department, as well as what individual roles will entail for new hires or internal promotions. But Torres Ronda is expected to be one of the leaders of Philadelphia's reimagined athlete-care program, and more clarity on her role will come, from my understanding, fairly shortly.

So who is Torres Ronda? Put a heavy emphasis on the "scientist" half of sports scientist, because her background is filled with extensive education and research. Torres Ronda has authored or co-authored research on topics such as hydrotherapy, player tracking devices, and the implimentation of tech in sports. Her educational background lists stops at five different universities, with specializations in sports performance and sports science spanning across 15 years of schooling.

On the practical side, Torres Ronda has worked with athletes of a wide variety of backgrounds, dating back to her first professional experience as a strength and conditioning coach for golfers in the early 2000s. In the time since, Torres Ronda has worked with youth basketball players at Barcelona, served as the strength and conditioning coach for the Spanish Swimming Federation, and most recently served as a lead voice with the Spurs over the last four seasons.

Coming from the Spurs, it is always hard to nail down what everyone does and does not do in the San Antonio bubble, as the Spurs are a largely collaborative franchise that also happens to be notorious for trying to minimize the noise coming from the organization. But at the very least, the Spurs were at the forefront of the "load management" movement, and that's something Sixers fans are going to become move familiar with than ever this season.

The Sixers, of course, are in a much different position than the Spurs were with, say, Tim Duncan. Joel Embiid is a young player moving toward his prime rather than an aging big the Sixers are trying to extend. But all the lessons and trade secrets and institutional knowledge picked up there will certainly benefit the Sixers as they try to draw up a plan to maximize the championship window for their team.

After Spurs guard Tony Parker ruptured a quad tendon in the 2017 playoffs, Torres Ronda was part of the team that suggested an unorthodox rehab program for the veteran guard reportedly centered around hiking. Low impact training and rehab methods are likely to be a matter of importance for Philadelphia for the foreseeable future, given their reliance on one Joel Embiid, and in theory, Torres Ronda's research background should be of some help here.

Not everything was sunshine and rainbows in San Antonio, of course, and Torres Ronda was with the organization during Kawhi Leonard saga in 2017-18, which ultimately led to his departure the following summer. That situation remains murky to this day, but it also shows that even the organizations lauded for "doing things the right way" can find themselves under the glare of the spotlight if one high-profile injury is handled imperfectly.

We'll know soon enough what exactly Torres Ronda will be responsible for in Philadelphia, as well as who will actually have the reins of the athlete care department. Suffice it to say there are worse organizations to hire from than the Spurs.

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