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A look at the Chicago Bulls commitment to sports performance

A movement fans can get behind

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NBA: Chicago Bulls-Media Day
this is just photography nonsense not sports performance
Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

Sports performance is one area where the Chicago Bulls have actually gone cutting edge.

The Athletic Chicago contributor Christopher Cason detailed the Chicago Bulls commitment to athletic performance, sleep science, and nutrition in a recent feature article. The article has some awesome anecdotes and quotes that I’m not going to repeat here because I don’t want to steal Cason’s thunder, so you should definitely check the article out.

Last summer, the Bulls re-hired Chip Schaefer as their new director of sports performance. He served as the Chicago Bulls head athletic trainer from 1990-1998 and then spent twelve years as the director of athletic performance with the Los Angeles Lakers and three years in the same role with the Sacramento Kings.

Schaefer has brought in sport scientists and nutritionists to work with the organization and its player. The benefit has been obvious.

Given the Bulls' 3-15 record, it’s hard to quantify and gauge the benefits of these advancements and insights into players' diets, sleep schedules and activity.

But, similar to the thinking behind management’s decision to undergo a full rebuild, the focus is both on the current and future dividends this information provides. In making sure that each player is not over-exerting himself, and is given the best tools possible to perform at their best in the present, the Bulls' hope is that the benefits of these habits and insights are evident for years to come.

The Bulls have partnered with Jeff Kahn, CEO of the sleep-coaching program ‘Rise Science’, to research optimal sleep duration for peak athletic performance (which is unique for every player) in hopes of changing player’s sleeping patterns for the better. According to Cason’s article, the research led the Bulls to move shootarounds back an hour because it would afford players 26-28 minutes per night of extra sleep.

The Bulls also use the app Heartbeat to monitor heart rate and workload from practices and games which helps to determine the intensity of head coach Fred Hoiberg’s infamous practices the next day. The whole point is to prevent overexertion and keep the team as fresh as possible for games.

A revamped, individualized nutrition program headed by Jenny Westerkamp is another change that the Chicago Bulls have made this season.

According to, Head Strength and Conditioning coach Matt Johnson, Director of Player Development Shawn Respert, Assistant Strength coach Ed Streit, and Assistant Athletic Trainer Arnold Lee are all in their first year with the team in addition to Schaefer and Westerkamp. It seems like there was a concerted effort from the organization to overhaul the previous player development framework by instilling all these new faces.

The Chicago Bulls are going the extra mile to make sure their young players succeed. The effort hasn’t translated into wins just yet, but the Bulls hope that the accumulation of all these good habits helps their players get better as the team scratches its way back to relevance.