Behind the Scenes With an NBA Performance Coach
“As a young performance coach, I started off doing it out of the back of my trunk, traveling from park to park, gym to gym, just trying to get as much experience as I could. I never thought I’d ever be doing anything like this. I’m tremendously excited and blessed to be in the position I am today.”
Mike Guevara, or “Coach Mike G,” as he’s often called, was born in Oakland, CA. He officially claims to be from the Bay Area, but as the son of a 20-year army veteran he moved around for most of his childhood. Growing up in Colorado, Georgia, Louisiana, Alabama and even Germany was challenging socially, but he says it helped him develop many essential skills for his profession. “I wouldn’t change a thing,” Mike told WHOOP.
Despite being undersized for his sport and not particularly fast, Mike was able to earn a football scholarship to play wide receiver at Ferris State University. Making up for what he lacked in raw talent with hard work and pure will is what he calls “the story of my athletic career.”
After graduating from college, Mike let go of his farfetched NFL aspirations when he “came to the realization that being 5’8” and 165 pounds wasn’t going to cut it.” Instead, Mike became determined to help other elite athletes reach their goals.
Mike used his degree in exercise science to obtain an internship at The Factory Training facility in Westlake Village, CA. From there he began assisting on NFL and NBA combine preps. His first big break came when top-ranked tennis player Victoria Azarenka started training there. She needed a strength and conditioning coach, and after two days of a one-week trial period Mike sold Azarenka on bringing him on tour with her full time.
“That was an enormous opportunity for me,” said Mike, “to travel with such a high-profile athlete. From there everything just snowballed and I was able to generate a nice private business. As soon as people see you working with a No. 1 player everyone wants to work with you.”
Today, Mike is the personal performance coach for an NBA All Star. The two met years ago when the player was a rookie development project at The Factory:
“He gravitated towards me even though I was the assistant at the time. He and I just clicked. When I got higher up in the company I was the one he wanted to work with. You can know everything there is to know about strength and conditioning; you can be the best coach, but if you don’t have chemistry with the people that you’re working with it doesn’t really matter.”
Mike first discovered WHOOP when he heard that some other NBA players were wearing it. “I always try to stay cutting edge and be on top of all the tech out there,” he said. “I’ve tried just about every device available.” Mike began using WHOOP last year and has worn it ever since:
“It doesn’t come off my wrist. Other wearables are good within the sport and within practice, but what about the rest of the time? What about recovery? Many previous devices I’d worked with were too sporadic and not very accurate. The way WHOOP measures heart rate variability is very impactful for me as a coach. It’s an incredibly consistent HRV monitoring device that reflects what you do over the course of an entire day. You can really see physiological patterns and changes.”
Mike has his All-Star client on WHOOP as well, but admits it was difficult to get him to wear it at first:
“With pro athletes, you have to be extra patient. It can take them a while to get around to trying new stuff. They’re not thinking about that, they’re worried about other things. Sometimes I’d have to say to him ‘Where’s your band at? Where’s your band at?’ But now that he understands the value of it he’s been great about wearing it. I use analogies like crazy to explain things like like HRV and resting heart rate. I’ll say ‘If your resting heart rate is 65, that’s like a car idling at 5000 RPMs. You’re just overactive, there is something going on within your system.’ When you use analogies with people the lightbulb goes on.”
“If it shows he didn’t get enough sleep, or quality sleep, I’ll ask him to pay the sleep debt off by taking a nap. If we’re ever in the red we implement recovery strategies–more than we would in the yellow or green–several different types of protocol that I believe in. Recovery is such an important thing and we’re hitting it from all angles. With objective data you can really influence people’s behaviors.”
It’s not just NBA players and superstar athletes who Mike recommends WHOOP too:
“Whenever I’m passionate or I believe in something I want to work with it. It’s about educating people to understand why knowledge is power; what’s going on inside your body matters. The impact this knowledge can have on your performance as a human being is tenfold. If you want to be elite, you have to have elite data. It doesn’t matter if you want to be an elite athlete, an elite CEO, an elite worker, it’s all about what you define as elite to yourself.”