Sports science guru David Tenney creates void as big as his legacy in leaving Sounders for NBA

Sounders performance and fitness director David Tenney has left the team and taken an NBA job with the Orlando Magic after nine years of innovative work in soccer

He’d tell coaches exactly how hard they could push a player in practice. Or, how early they should pull another off the field during a game.

For nine years, whenever sports scientist David Tenney spoke, the Sounders coaching staff and management listened. They knew Tenney’s data and devices were in the fitness vanguard of not only Major League Soccer, but the sports world as a whole.

And this week, the bigger part of that world came calling. The NBA’s Orlando Magic snatched Tenney away from his Sounders roots, naming him their new High Performance Director as the team attempts to vault its way out of mediocrity. A search for his replacement is underway.

“It’s just a really exciting project to go and work with NBA level players,’’ Tenney said. “That’s something I never really anticipated would happen.’’

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In a way, it’s surprising it didn’t happen sooner. Tenney’s departure with five games to go in the regular season leaves the Sounders – battling for first place and on the road against red hot Real Salt Lake on Saturday – with a void as big as his legacy.

Originally hired as a fitness coach, Tenney implemented groundbreaking technology like the Catapult GPS and Omegawave systems. The Catapult system measures player movement during training while Omegawave gauges heart rate variability and readiness before and after games.

All told, it gave the Sounders a huge edge on competitors and led to Tenney being promoted to head the team’s 35-employee Performance & Sports Science Department in 2014. Sounders owner Adrian Hanauer is a huge proponent of sports analytics and recognized early on that implementing them on the fitness side could help his club’s on-field record as much as “Moneyball’’ tactics worked for Billy Beane and the Oakland Athletics.

But thinking about fitness data is one thing; implementing it quite another.

Back in February 2010, just as Tenney was devising the Sounders’ future data-based fitness regime, the Mariners and former general manager Jack Zduriencik attempted their own foray into sports science and fitness analytics.

They abandoned traditional weight training and signed up Dr. Marcus Elliott – founder of the Peak Performance Project…

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