Much is rightfully made of the contributions Osvaldo Alonso, Brad Evans and Head Coach Brian Schmetzer have made as original MLS Sounders, but often overlooked in that discussion is the work of High Performance Director David Tenney.
Tenney joined Seattle in early 2009 ahead of its inaugural MLS Season and has helped the Sounders to four U.S. Open Cup titles, a Supporters’ Shield and last year’s MLS Cup. On Wednesday, the Sounders announced Tenney will be departing the club shortly for the NBA’s Orlando Magic.
“Being successful in an organization is about building culture, growing things slowly, making good decisions as a group,” Tenney said Wednesday. “The department we’ve created here has always evolved as the demands of the coaches and the sport and the athletes have changed. It’s about creating infrastructure that’s science-driven that slowly builds and evolves based on the demands of the athletes and the coaches there.”
Magic President Jeff Weltman and General Manager John Hammond approached Tenney about six weeks ago as they began their efforts to build a more advanced sports science team. Orlando hired Weltman in May from the Toronto Raptors, where he served as GM. Later that day, Weltman hired former colleague and Milwaukee Bucks GM Hammond to the same role.
Together, they’ve set out to turn around a franchise that finished in 13th in the Eastern Conference last season. Part of their plan involved hiring someone to oversee the sports science department, and Tenney, who runs the annual Sounders FC Sports Science weekend, was high on their radar.
“All of the work Dave has done keeping athletes healthy and helping us achieve success is notable,” said Schmetzer. “It’s a testament to the job he did…They’ve done a lot over the last nine years getting that database to where whatever information I need, it’s there right away.”
Tenney’s role has grown tremendously since he was first hired as a Fitness Coach. In 2014, he was named Sports Science and Performance Manager and in 2016 he became Director of Performance and Sports Science before taking over his most recent title as High Performance Director. Along with Head Strength and Conditioning Coach Chad Kolarcik, Sports Science Data Analyst Ravi Ramineni, Assistant Strength Coach and Sports Scientist Sean Muldoon and Video Analyst Tom Childs, Tenney has built one of the most decorated performance programs in American sports.
“There’s a moment where you move from a coach to a manager and organizer and decision-maker,” Tenney said. “I never personally set out to evolve like that, but as you move in a job — [owner] Adrian [Hanauer] has allowed me to grow this department, it’s become more managerial and decision-making.”
Tenney said leaving the Sounders was one of the hardest decisions he’s ever made, and while ready for the challenges that await in the NBA, he’s going to take several fond memories with him to Florida.
“Last year was the high point,” Tenney said. “Winning MLS Cup is something the franchise had been waiting to do especially for Brian to come in and really take off. The stuff that we did and the way we worked together was really unique and special.”