Orlando Magic promote new high performance director from within

Lindsey Winninger has gone from working with U.S. Skiing to high performance director with the Orlando Magic. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Lindsey Winninger has gone from working with U.S. Skiing to high performance director with the Orlando Magic. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images) /

The Orlando Magic’s medical staff got a small shakeup with the promotion of Lindsay Winninger as the new high performance director.

When Jeff Weltman took over the Orlando Magic as president of basketball operations he had two charges.

The first, and most public one, was to try to resurrect the product on the floor. The Magic had missed the playoffs for the previous five years and had won 30 games just once in that time. They had gone through a carousel of coaches — and there would be one more coaching change a year later.

The team needed some stability and direction with a new front office at the helm.

But Weltman’s second goal, and the one he would spend most of his first year working on, was rebuilding the team’s internal infrastructure. His task and his goal were to remake how the Magic operate behind the scenes completely.

He hired John Hammond as his assistant general manager on essentially the same day the Magic announced his own hire. The next hire he made was one that would not register for most fans but would prove important in the project the Magic were undertaking.

Jeff Weltman hired Seattle Sounders trainer David Tenney to take on the role of High Performance Director. It was a catch-all title for the person in charger of overseeing the team’s medical and performance staff.

After three seasons, the Magic have transitioned away from that first important hire. Orlando announced Wednesday the team had promoted Lindsay Winninger as the team’s high performance director after David Tenney left to take over a similar position with Austin FC, a new team coming into MLS in 2022.

"“An expert in sports medicine and performance, Lindsay brings a wealth of experience working with world-class athletes to the position,” Jeff Weltman said in a statement. “In her time with us, she has demonstrated great leadership and communication, while implementing strategic and creative injury rehabilitation and prevention practices.”"

Fans who watched any of coach Steve Clifford’s press availabilities during the team’s stay in the NBA campus likely caught him referencing her. She was a key person in getting the team ready for the season to restart.

He lauded her — and the entire performance team’s — work in the run-up to the season’s restart and during their time in the campus, even with the injuries they sustained.

Winninger joined the Magic as a physical therapist two years ago. She was promoted to director of rehabilitation fairly quickly after that (she was listed as a physical therapist in the team’s media guide printed at the start of the season).

Winninger came to the Magic after working with the U.S. Ski and Snowboard as their lead physical therapist. She worked extensively with Olympic skier Lindsey Vonn as her private physical therapist.

Winninger, notably, helped Vonn recover from a series of knee and leg injuries in and around 2016 and then an arm injury in 2017 — Winninger described skiing as a high-injury sport.

Vonn would return for the 2018 Olympics and competed in 2017 when she set the all-time record with 82 wins. You can learn more by watching the HBO documentary, Lindsey Vonn: The Final Season.

She also worked with players from across the sports world including in the NBA, NFL, MLB and MLS in her private business before joining the Magic full time.

She joined the Orlando Magic Pod Squad in January to describe her duties as the traveling physical therapist with the Magic this season and her time working with Vonn:

As a physical therapist, Winninger said her day-to-day job was to check in on how players were doing and checking in for acute injuries and making sure they can get through the long haul of the season. It is a very interpersonal job as the therapist builds trust with the player to push them in the right way and ease off when needed.

She will ascend to the lead chair, as it were, at a critical time for the Magic.

Orlando is coming off a season where the team was filled with injuries. While the medical staff certainly tries to prevent injuries where it can, a lot of the job is managing injuries and managing players through the season and then working to bring players back safely and quickly.

The Magic will be managing several recoveries from long-term injuries. Jonathan Isaac obviously will be rehabbing his torn ACL throughout the 2021 season. Al-Farouq Aminu and Chuma Okeke will also be finishing their rehabs on their knee injuries.

Orlando Magic
Orlando Magic /

Orlando Magic

And all this will happen during a pandemic where there is restricted access to the AdventHealth Practice Facility and the medical staff. They likely are still working around and through the NBA’s guidelines as they build offseason workout plans for players. All without knowing when the season might begin.

In addition, the performance staff coordinates any nutrition programs and weight training the players do throughout the season and in the offseason.

That is a lot on her plate from the start.

She is standing in a position that was created and founded by one of the pioneers in sports medicine and performance training for sports.

The hire and the ambition of hiring David Tenney was a sure sign the Magic were transforming a lot of things inside the Amway Center and the support system the team had around the players.

Tenney was among the first performance staff leaders to use the Catapult tracking system and in his time with the Seattle Sounders, he hosted a sports science weekend to survey the latest in sports technology and fitness tracking.

The Magic dealt with their share of injuries. But undoubtedly his approach has had long-term benefits to the team. And the coaching staff had complete trust in that staff.

It is impossible for the general public to know everything that Tenney did for the Magic. But it is undoubtedly a crucial role for the team.

The Magic are likely going to keep the staff as it is for now. The team has already done some cost-cutting — recently acknowledging publicly that it did not renew contracts for their radio broadcasters — on that front.

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But the Magic decided to keep someone they knew and the players and coaching staff clearly trust to lead this important position and group within the franchise.