NSCA’s Coaching Podcast, Episode 105: Dr. Lorena Torres Ronda

by Eric McMahon, MEd, CSCS, RSCC*D and Dr. Lorena Torres, PhD
Coaching Podcast July 2021


Dr. Lorena Torres Ronda, co-editor of the new NSCA’s Essentials of Sport Science textbook, talks to the NSCA Coaching and Sport Science Program Manager, Eric McMahon, about creating the textbook and how the Certified Performance and Sport Scientist® (CPSS®) certification will benefit the field. Topics under discussion include the use of technology in sport and the specific role that strength coaches play in supporting better performance and recovery decisions.

Find Dr. Lorena Torres Ronda on Twitter: @lorenatorres07 | Find Eric on Instagram: @ericmcmahoncscs or Twitter: @ericmcmahoncscs

Show Notes

“And I always explain innovation like technology are very related and linked. But technology is only a form of innovation. So the fact that you are using technology doesn't mean that you are doing innovating. Because it's more about how you use information and how you want to analyze information.” 11:56

“…learning is what matters, and knowledge, getting knowledge is what matters. Technology is the accelerator to that knowledge, or helping in that journey.” 12:35

“So I don't think we should drive programs, putting the emphasis, or the focus point in technology. But how we use technology in our favor to get knowledge and keep learning. That is what I try to explain when I talk about technology innovation and sport science.” 12:44

“I still amazes me how some devices are big, heavy, I wouldn't like to use it. So why we're pushing the players to do things? We should be pushing the companies to listen to us and do things more user friendly. So a lot of transparency, a lot of empathy with the athlete, a lot of education with the athlete, this can help you in this, this, and this way.” 17:40


[00:00:00.00] [MUSIC PLAYING]

[00:00:00.69] Welcome to the NSCA Coaching Podcast episode 105.

[00:00:04.77] Learning, it's what matters. And knowledge, getting knowledge is what matters. Technology is the accelerator to that knowledge, or helping in that journey.

[00:00:17.43] This is the NSCA Coaching Podcast where we talk to strength and conditioning coaches about what you really need to know, but probably didn't learn in school. There's strength and conditioning, and then there's everything else.

[00:00:28.21] Welcome to the NSCA Coaching Podcast. I'm Eric McMahon. Today, we are joined by one of the co-editors of the new NSCA's Essentials of Sport Science textbook, Dr. Lorena Torres Ronda. Lorena, welcome.

[00:00:41.97] Hi, Eric. Thank you for having me here.

[00:00:45.28] I'm excited to talk to you today. You have extensive experience as a high performance specialist at the professional level, including multiple roles in the NBA, and also working in Olympic sport. This will be a great opportunity for our listeners to learn more about the new NSCA textbook and sports science program. But I'd like to give you a chance just starting off to share how you got started in the field.

[00:01:10.17] Yeah. It's a question that I've been asked a lot lately. I think-- I always explain I have a holistic profile. I started as a strength coach in Spain, I'm from Spain, as you can tell by the accent. I started as a strength coach, strength conditioning coach.

[00:01:29.37] And then at some point, I want them to improve my knowledge of skills, go deeper in that field. And I studied to do my PhD. But I wasn't looking for a PhD title to go to academia. I wanted to get better at what I was doing on the field. But that opened my eyes to the research world, so I gravitated towards the strength and conditioning of sports science and research.

[00:02:00.12] And then from there, I've been always working in applied settings, as you were saying, professional sports-- FCB Barcelona and basketball in the Academy with the Spanish national swimming team. Then came to the United States and worked in the NBA with the San Antonio Spurs. My last job was performance director of the 76ers. And I'm currently working with a Spanish Basketball Federation and the national team, preparing the Olympics.

[00:02:33.03] So that has been a bit, my journey, very applied strength and conditioning, sports science, and now more a leading teams leadership position, I would say.

[00:02:46.44] It's great. You're connected with the research and the coaching world. And that leads us to really where we're at today with sports science. Looking at the new NSCA's Essentials of Sports Science textbook, we're advancing as a field and evolving in so many areas. Describe the process of compiling such a large amount of emerging sports science content, and working with experts from a variety of disciplines all over the world.

[00:03:20.09] Yeah, I remember the first meeting that we had with Duncan French, my partner in crime, human kinetics and you guys. And I think the first meeting went something like this. Hi, guys. We would like to have you as the editors of the book.

[00:03:42.47] We're going to give you some time. I don't remember, maybe a month or whatever the time frame, so you can think about the content and who do you think would be the contributors. And it was amazing how quick Duncan and I connected. We were at the same page in everything from the very beginning. That same evening we had the table of contents and probably 80% of the contributors.

[00:04:08.28] So we had a very clear idea in our mind. And we didn't know each other from before what these books should look like. We knew that it needed sections about putting the framework, what does sports science mean? What does sports science is, or we understand as it is? What a sports scientist role is?

[00:04:34.99] So a first part we're, OK, let's understand what we're going to talk about in this book, then a specific context about key performance indicators, descriptors of performance, more like a first approach, then collecting data and how, then how we [AUDIO OUT] data, and then presented and communicated information.

[00:05:01.25] So for us, this book was about, these are the fields that can be included, or we think we can be included in the sports science umbrella. They're obviously details, and it doesn't mean that every chapter represents all the fields. You could add more, or different, or with different approaches, but at least the main ones.

[00:05:30.68] And through the book, all the chapters are connected through, OK, these are topics, fields, areas of expertise. But what is sports science [AUDIO OUT] scientist can do, specifically in this context? So to your question, our job was to think about what this book should look like, which contents should include, and who would be the best in the world to talk or write about those contents.

[00:06:07.57] And we both are-- we are lucky we have really good friends that happens to be some of the best in the world what they do. So we were very thankful and happy to have friends and contributors that we consider exactly that, the best in the world to talk about what they know the most about.

[00:06:31.70] That's great. And sports science truly is an international conversation. And the NSCA is working to become an administrative body and advocacy organization for sports science in North America. So beyond the book, this content really communicates and is going to have a significant impact on a number of fields under high performance and sport performance in the United States in this part of the world.

[00:07:09.08] I know just from hearing you speak about it, this project means a lot to you. Speak to that. What does sports science and this evolution that we're experiencing in the field mean to you?

[00:07:21.56] I think we explain, we answer that question in the preface of the book. Duncan and I wrote it together. And we talk about exactly that, the evolution of a sports science, the evolution of the role of the sports scientist. So I think the sports science could mean a way of, a philosophy of working in a performance and the medical department where the job is to have players available, maximize performance, whatever the success means for that team organization, et cetera.

[00:08:05.24] We're going to approach it from evidence-based knowledge approach, with some of the science frameworks, or philosophies, or critical thinking. So to me means a way of thinking, working from the background of the sport. And to the-- your point of, in the States, I think is in many countries we have degrees that covers the sports science areas of knowledge.

[00:08:39.34] The fact that what you're doing guys is give the opportunity to have a certification where you can have uniform knowledge across the people that is going to get the certification. So you can compare a certification to a full degree, master's PhD. But this is going to be like, OK, let's unify certain contents and knowledge. And whoever does the certification, it's going to have this minimum, or this view, or this approach. And you guys are starting this in USA.

[00:09:20.67] There's a huge need to unify the performance community in the United States and across North America. I can speak from professional baseball, and I think this even extends to college athletics, high school athletics, where the strength coach works very hand-in-hand with the athletic trainer.

[00:09:39.22] And now there's dietitians in the mix. And there's a number of professionals that this space has grown. And so the unity and collaboration, those are key elements. And that is really ingrained in the sport science content as an interdisciplinary field.

[00:09:57.75] I want to ask you a little bit about technology. I always think back, I think I found one of your posts on Twitter a while back, and it really connected me with some of the things you're putting out there on technology.

[00:10:10.33] And I think performance technology is a topic that at times is synonymous with sports science, whether that's appropriate or not. However, we can say that technology and data have given us a deeper access and understanding of our athletes. How should coaches and sports scientists look at the role of technology in the programs?

[00:10:34.21] To your last comment, Duncan French is the author of the chapter talking about multidisciplinary, interdisciplinary teams and how you can put everything together, so how to manage the steps. So I just wanted to mention that because he did a great job in that chapter.

[00:10:55.36] Technology, technology is interesting. And what you're saying, the relationship between technology and the sports scientist. And I think is because professionals using technology have been able to use objective information and deliver objective information from technology. And that gives the sense of, OK, we have objective information. We analyze the information. And we do some statistics. And we present the information.

[00:11:25.22] And as you can see, has a parallelism with what a sports scientist can do. However, is not the only thing that they can do. And that's in one reflection or thought. The other one I think is because sports science is a relatively new area of knowledge and has been linked to technology. And because both things are new, it seems that are related with innovation.

[00:11:55.71] And I always explain innovation like technology are very related and linked. But technology is only a form of innovation. So the fact that you are using technology doesn't mean that you are doing innovating. Because it's more about how you use information and how you want to analyze information.

[00:12:17.22] Which decisions-- our decisions having impact coming from that information. So it's way more complex. And I like the quote that is related with, OK, learning is what matters, and knowledge, getting knowledge is what matters. Technology is the accelerator to that knowledge, or helping in that journey.

[00:12:44.02] So I don't think we should drive programs, putting the emphasis, or the focus point in technology. But how we use technology in our favor to get knowledge and keep learning. That is what I try to explain when I talk about technology innovation and sport science.

[00:13:06.43] We have to use it when it's useful, when we can get something that is giving us information and knowledge, not only information. Otherwise, we're going to have these profession calls for science, just focus on using technology. And I think it's way more rich than only that.

[00:13:31.64] I like that deeper thinking. I really like the quote, technology is only a form of innovation. It really speaks to the higher-level thinking that is required in this system-based approach of putting a sports science program in place. I think back to early, say the early 2000s, the innovation, and research, and physiology, and biomechanics hasn't advanced significantly in 20 years.

[00:14:03.01] We have new knowledge, but a lot of the scientific underpinnings were in place. And technology advancements have, like you said, accelerated or given us increased access to diving deeper into these areas that we were learning with our athletes. And so I think it really is a valuable distinction to be aware of, whether you're a strength and conditioning coach, or have a dedicated sports science role, or even our administrators and leadership who are asking questions and trying to be more evidence based in delivering performance programs with athletes.

[00:14:47.32] One area I get questions about quite a bit from coaches, how does technology impact or change the coaching process? And I also think it's interesting to think about, how does technology impact the athlete experience from this analog, white-room environment to a more digital environment? Athletes today have digital DNA.

[00:15:16.88] That's a quote I got from one of our administrators with the Rangers in my years in professional baseball and we were trying to advance technology in our evidence based practices in that way. As a field, where are we at in terms of that thinking towards technology as it impacts our job description?

[00:15:39.71] I think technology's part of our-- it has to be part of our skill toolbox. But not only manipulating and using technology, but if we have this technology, which better questions can we ask ours [AUDIO OUT]. And we really have to improve how we analyze information, because it can be a very simplistic with descriptive analysis, or very academia approach, and that's very difficult to understand or communicate to coaches and athletes, or to much prediction situations, where we know that humans are not really good at predicting things.

[00:16:31.46] So the impact-- I would like to answer to you, it's not only about technology. Let's assume we're going to implement technology. Your question was how that can impact coaches and athletes? And I think our job is to be very transparent with the information.

[00:16:54.13] We have to use the information in favor of athletes. Because what sometimes happens is they see that as a threat, so they don't even do the countermovement jump 100%. Because what happens if I do it 100%, and my average today is lower than expected. So that means that they're going to modify my training session and I don't want that.

[00:17:18.20] So we have to be very careful how we use the information. It has to be in favor of [AUDIO OUT] to prevent risk injury situation, or to help them to go farther in their careers, so a lot of transparency with that. A lot of empathy with the athlete.

[00:17:40.04] I still amazes me how some devices are big, heavy, I wouldn't like to use it. So why we're pushing the players to do things? We should be pushing the companies to listen to us and do things more user friendly. So a lot of transparency, a lot of empathy with the athlete, a lot of education with the athlete, this can help you in this, this, and this way.

[00:18:07.36] And with the coaches, a lot of transparency too, a lot of education too, and with them even more, a lot of empathy. Because what I think that happens sometimes is I wouldn't like to see the sports science or sports scientist being this role where it's only pushing back things. Because then you lose trust from coaches.

[00:18:36.07] Because coaches have a lot of-- the stake in that. They have to win games or they can lose their jobs. And then they have their own situation going on. So we have to be seen as a resource to help them make better decisions.

[00:18:56.62] They have to see sports science more as a-- delivering as much objective information as possible so they can make better decisions. So they we have to work towards being their allies rather than being a threat.

[00:19:17.92] And that was one of the reasons why putting this book together was so important for us. Because we felt, Duncan and I, that we had the opportunity to put a book where, OK, let's give as [AUDIO OUT] as we can a good understanding of the potential of this field. It's always from a positive of view, positive perspective, support, from a humble perspective, to be able to connect with coaches, or organizations, or athletes.

[00:19:56.43] Yeah, I really like that sport science digs from so many areas, that interdisciplinary field that we've been talking about. And that makes it confusing at times for our athletes or the coaches we work with. So I really like that push towards transparency of information. Communicating what we know, what we don't know, and being a part of the solution in a positive way towards best practices.

[00:20:25.71] And that's something that, not just in sports science, the overarching field, but strength and conditioning for many of our coaches who listen. We talk about that a lot. We're a part of the team program. And it's not just what happens in the weight room that matters, it truly is what happens out on the field or in the arena that matters in separating those thought processes, but also integrating the knowledge and trying to work for the betterment of our team.

[00:20:58.23] Being the NSCA Coaching Podcast, and many of our listeners come from coaching roles. I want to ask you about strength and conditioning and just some of the best qualities that you've seen from strength and conditioning coaches you've worked with. And on the topic of sport science, how can strength conditioning coaches be supportive to the advancement of sports science in the team and weight room programs?

[00:21:25.67] To the first part of the question, I think one of the strengths of a strength and conditioning coach is they really connect with athletes, the [INAUDIBLE] skills, the empathy, the being a supporter, a resource for them. So I think all the softer skills besides the knowledge, because that's very individual.

[00:21:54.34] I think is strength and conditioning coach has a huge impact in winning the trust of the athletes. Because it's something tangible, like if you work-- if I'm a strength coach and I work with you and you get better, or less injured, or stronger, or you get-- the athlete can see that and feel that. It's tangible.

[00:22:17.65] So then you appreciate the role of this professional. So that's one of the things that they are-- or we're, if I'm included in this strength and conditioning is the ability to connect with athletes and players.

[00:22:38.84] The second part was--

[00:22:43.51] B, how can strength and conditioning coach be supportive to the advancement of sport science and the team in a weight room setting?

[00:22:49.79] Yes, really good question. Because I believe in the interdisciplinary, multidisciplinary teams, where people has a strength in their field of knowledge. But I also like horizontal knowledge, like somebody that can understand or know, like have a deep understanding and knowledge in that particular field is strength and conditioning.

[00:23:14.72] But having some knowledge of sport science, and data collection, analysis, and delivery. But at the same time, certain knowledge of nutrition, because they're going to recommend the athletes to take this protein shake. So the more we can have professionals that can understand the [AUDIO OUT] body of knowledge, it's going to be easier to communicate, the same page, understand [AUDIO OUT], sell the product.

[00:23:47.91] If you have a department where you have a strength and conditioning coach that understands how to use the force plates in a very good way, and understands the metrics, and understands why-- I don't know-- the take off velocity is going to have more impact that only the [INAUDIBLE] jump high.

[00:24:11.57] When the sports scientist is gets into the conversation, the strength coach is at the same level, they are talking to the athlete the same language, that gives a lot of power to the program. So the way that a strength and conditioning coaches can get benefit of sport science framework, knowledge, education, is to be at the same page, and the same philosophy, and having the same language to run the program.

[00:24:45.03] Yeah, it brings us back to the unity that gets created in the field of sport science, and bringing together the variety of professionals. But that happens at the acute level within the program with these dedicated sport scientists would be strength and conditioning coach, you mentioned before collaboration with the medical staff. There really is so much, and coming together and working in a unified approach towards performance and keeping players healthy. That truly is the goal.

[00:25:22.50] I really like today that you, at various points you've touched on the key skills that it takes for aspiring or sport science students that want to advance into roles. And I think everything from pursuing higher education, certification, coming together with other disciplines and learning areas that maybe you are a little deficient so that you can have a little bit broader knowledge and understanding and be able to engage in those conversations, the connectedness with strength and conditioning.

[00:26:04.18] Yeah I really enjoyed this today. Like I mentioned before, I always enjoy following your posts on Twitter. But what are some of the other ways our listeners can get in touch with you?

[00:26:15.21] Yeah, Twitter is my main social media platform. I don't use others. If I collaborate in a podcast like this one, or if I talk in a conference, or if I have a new research published, I always use Twitter as a communication channel. So people that want to follow, or curious, or wants to connect with me, that's the best way.

[00:26:48.47] Lorena, thanks so much for sharing with us today, and for your significant and ongoing contributions to the NSCA's sport science. Program it's really been great connecting.

[00:26:59.02] No, thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to talk to you, which I've enjoyed a lot. I always want to talk, to give me the opportunity to explain a bit more what Duncan and I try to do with the book. I think, as I said at the beginning, the preface, it's the setup, the tone set up for the book, and our understanding of the profession, and the role of a sport scientist. And, yeah, I'm always happy to share with you guys conversations. So thank you so much for having me here.

[00:27:38.69] Yeah, such a great resource. And just if you haven't had a chance to look at the NSCA's Essentials of Sport Science textbook. This episode is truly a testament to it. And I think you will find value in it regardless of what your current role in the field is. To our listeners, thanks for tuning in today.

[00:28:00.83] And, of course, we need to thank our sponsors, Sorinex exercise equipment. We always appreciate their support. It was a lot of fun connecting with so many coaches at the Sorinex summer strong event this May. If you missed it this year, summer strong is definitely a great experience to check out in the future.

[00:28:19.01] With that, we will sign off. Everyone have a great day. From the NSCA, thank you for listening to the NSCA Coaching Podcast. We serve you, the coaching community. So follow, subscribe, and download for future episodes. We look forward to connecting with you again soon, and hope you'll join us at an upcoming NSCA event or in one of our special interest groups. For more information, go to NSCA.com.

[00:28:44.96] This was the NSCA's Coaching Podcast. The National Strength and Conditioning Association was founded in 1978 by strength and conditioning coaches to share information, resources, and help advance the profession. Serving coaches for over 40 years, the NSCA is the trusted source for strength and conditioning professionals. Be sure to join us next time.

Reporting Errors: To report errors in a podcast episode requiring correction or clarification, email the editor at publications@nsca.com or write to NSCA, attn: Publications Dept., 1885 Bob Johnson Dr., Colorado Springs, CO 80906. Your letter should be clearly marked as a letter of complaint. Please (a) identify in writing the precise factual errors in the published podcast episode (every false, factual assertion allegedly contained therein), (b) explain with specificity what the true facts are, and (c) include your full name and contact information.

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Eric L. McMahon, MEd, CSCS,*D, TSAC-F,*D, RSCC*E

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Eric McMahon is the Coaching and Sport Science Program Manager at the NSCA Headquarters in Colorado Springs. He joined the NSCA Staff in 2020 with ove ...

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Lorena Torres Ronda

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