The Development Pathway Of A Champion: Rudy Gobert

R3Photo Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Written in partnership with Thomas Herd 

Trophies have a meaningful and concrete way of crowning the continuous, un-remitting toil of the champions we emulate.

Take professional basketball player Rudy Gobert for instance. Rudy is fresh off winning the 2018 NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award and the details of his training process have earned public recognition well beyond just the sport of basketball.

Yet before this crowning achievement, few would have looked at the ultra-disciplined and scientific approach he took towards development as the gold standard in athletic performance advancement.

Since it’s been brought front and center to mind, we now take a look at what goes into the training regimen of a champion.

Performance Fundamentals

A. Customizing Your Path

Although the NBA is replete with scorers, the Utah Jazz and Rudy agreed to hone his skill set as a defensive mastermind.

Blessed with an uncanny basketball IQ, court vision and reaction speed, Rudy had all the tools for becoming a superior shot blocker and defensive specialist. Although it was important for Rudy to be a well-rounded player (and he certainly has an offensive prowess, averaging 13.5 points per game in 2017-2018), Rudy set out to sharpen his defensive skills to an extraordinary level.

In doing so, he harnessed both the Utah Jazz’s training and coaching apparatus as well as his own cutting-edge, bespoke care team led by osteopath and performance coach Fabrice Gautier.

Fabrice 2Photo Credit: Fabrice Gautier

B. Holistic Care To Enhance and Sustain Performance

Although a simple concept, over the course of an 82 game season it is nearly impossible to sustain exceptional performance night in, night out. If you take a look at Rudy’s regular season game videos, one thing that sticks out is how ready he is every night to perform. He seems a step faster, sharper and more engaged on average than many players on the floor, and as a result, he is able to consistently anticipate and head off shots. Further, due to his defensive acrobatics, Rudy often takes a beating on the court so it’s even more remarkable to see him sustain that level of performance night in, night out.

The trick for Rudy’s consistency has been assembling a holistic, all-encompassing care team to revitalize and hone each element of his performance. According to the care team architect Fabrice Gautier, up-keeping the performance of Rudy is like maintaining a formula one car with races often falling on back to back nights.

While developing a relationship with Rudy after treating a sprained ankle injury in 2016, Fabrice was quick to discern that Rudy needed to have a complete team around him if he was to build off of his athletic foundation. To Fabrice, the process with Rudy was like building a house where you need to have the best architect, contractor, electrician and plumber in place to ensure that he’d have the engine underneath to consistently express his superior new level of defensive capability.

Fabrice started by aligning Rudy’s osteopathic foundation, Working on the mobility of the fascias—a “sheet” or “network”—of connective tissue binding the different body structures (such as muscles, tendons, ligaments, both visceral and articular), Fabrice was able to establish an ideal base off which Rudy could build. For the first layer of the proverbial house, Fabrice would put Rudy through a series of key functional movement exercises, many done on the cutting-edge Waff tool, which challenges the athlete to constantly stabilize and control his core. Once this first level was rock solid, Fabrice would transfer him over to Olympic weightlifting Coach Michael Casey who would start to build in layer 2 with explosive speed and explosive power. To accelerate the development of these new higher gears, Fabrice leaned on nutritionist Phil Goglia and recovery specialist Barrence Baytos. Goglia and Baytos devised a tailored recuperation routine that consisted of lactic acid flushing, frequent sleep and nap periods, and specialized post-workout meals. Key to Rudy’s recovery was the integration of the Waff Max King Size, an inflated ergonomic cushion that comfortably fit Rudy’s 7’1” frame and helped accelerate his body’s natural recovery process.

R2Photo Credit: Fabrice Gautier

Movement Amplification

Although each element of Rudy’s performance plan was independent, under Fabrice’s watchful eye they were all integrated and amplified each other’s effect to produce a movement chain that was greater than the sum of their parts. This, in combination with the Utah Jazz’s own conditioning and recovery procedures, gave Rudy a performance gear on the defensive end that was simply unmatched and that he could rely on each night for record-breaking results.

Below Rudy expounds on the origin and development of his expertise and gives us further insight on what we can look forward to next.

When did you know that you wanted to distinguish yourself as a defensive specialist? 

Rudy: I always loved to play on both ways….it came with experience, with my physical abilities and my mentality. I want to win, I’m a competitor, and in order to do that, you have to play defense. It just became natural for me to try to be a leader defensively to help my team win.

You have an uncanny ability to anticipate shots and react at lightning speed to block them. Did you always possess this astounding ability? Or this something that can actually be developed through training and sharpening your reaction skills? 

Rudy: I think I always had a quick reaction but it’s one of those things that gets better with experience. Knowing your opponent, anticipating what shots he’s going to take and doing your best to contest the shot.

Waff 1Photo Credit: Fabrice Gautier

What is the maintenance and pre-game preparation like to be able to perform at peak level each night over the course of the 82 game season? Especially with the beating you seem to take. 

Rudy: I really pay attention to every detail—my nutrition, my training, my rest—all of those little details that you think are not important are actually very important. Everyday I’m still learning about my body and the things that help me to be better on the court and in better health.

How is working with Fabrice and his team unique? How much do their tactics and methods play a part of your routine? Would you recommend Fabrice’s type of care to other pro athletes?

Rudy: Fabrice has really helped me a lot through the last few years. At times when I’ve been injured and when I haven’t been injured, Fabrice has really kept me healthy and kept my body on track. He has some skills you don’t find often and I think every NBA player should have someone like that to help your body be in the best shape possible.

He really understands how the body works. A lot of trainers may also understand but they cannot necessarily feel the different restrictions of mobility that may exist with their hands or be able to fix them. Fabrice does both. He understands how the body works and knows how to work with hands so that injury doesn’t happen again and to get you stronger in the areas needed.

Coming off winning the 2018 Defensive Player of the Year Award, how do you go up from here? What are your goals for the 2019 season? 

Rudy: My goal is really to keep getting better. I think I can really improve a lot on both ends; my team can improve a lot. I’m just excited to see what we’re going to do in the future and I’m definitely going to keep working with Fabrice, his team, and of course the Jazz team. Hopefully, I’ll have the best season of my career this year.