Longtime Athletic Trainer Ed Lacerte Sets Wellness Agenda for USA Basketball’s Next Generation
Ed Lacerte joked that his involvement with USA Basketball has come full circle, and he wouldn’t want it any other way.
After being an athletic trainer for the 1992 U.S. Olympic Men’s Basketball Team — aka the “Dream Team” — Lacerte hadn’t been in touch with USA Basketball officials until the summer of 2017. USA Basketball Men’s National Team director Sean Ford reached out to Lacerte and asked him if he’d like to serve as the athletic trainer for the USA Men’s World Cup Qualifying Teams. It was an opportunity Lacerte couldn’t pass up.
When USA Basketball announced in August 2018 that it would be expanding its Men’s Junior National Team program to include additional training camps and year-round player development programming, with focuses on health and wellness and life skills, Lacerte again was front and center. He was named the program’s director of player health and sports performance.
“When that was presented to me, I was very excited to get involved and stay involved with it,” Lacerte said. “It’s been nice.”
Lacerte — who is a registered physical therapist and a certified athletic trainer, strength and conditioning specialist and performance enhancement specialist — is able to perform his job remotely from his home in Westford, Massachusetts, most of the time. The gig is not as much direct clinical care for athletes as he’s accustomed to, however, Lacerte does travel to do hands-on work at the six camps the USA Junior National Team now participates in each year.
Under Lacerte’s guidance, players in the program participate in a health and wellness program that takes place on site and runs throughout the year. Lacerte helped to develop programming for USA Basketball, the NBA, the National Basketball Players Association and the NCAA, and players will be completing educational modules throughout the calendar year.
“During the course of the year, there’s going to be interaction with the players and their parents,” said Lacerte, who received his undergraduate and master’s degree at Boston University before getting his doctorate at Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science. “Our contact is directly with the parents and not with the players, because that’s just not appropriate to do that. When we receive information about a health issue, I’ll initiate a phone call with the parents and help in the best manner possible and set some guidelines for them as for what they should seek in medical care. If necessary, facilitate second opinions or consults wherever they may live and also facilitate with their athletic trainers, strength and conditioning coaches and physical therapists, so that we can make sure there’s continuity of care for them.”
The 59-year-old who in August 2019 earned a graduate certificate in High Performance Sport at Australian Catholic University, has quite an impressive basketball resume prior to his current position. Lacerte was the head athletic trainer and physical therapist for the Boston Celtics from 1987-2017. That made him the longest-tenured trainer in the illustrious history of the franchise.
He’s also been the athletic trainer and physical therapist for three U.S. Olympic Sports Festivals (1987, 1989 and 1990), the 1991 USA Basketball Men’s U19 World Cup Team, at the Boston venue for the 1994 FIFA World Cup and the 1996 and 2000 U.S. Olympic Team Trials for gymnastics. His most high-profile gig was as the trainer for the “Dream Team” that captured the gold medal in the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona.
“We just bring all those experiences and the years of seeing different injuries, and we’re trying to just educate the parents of these kids that they don’t have to necessarily rush back from certain things,” said Lacerte, who also is the co-founder of ProSports Therapy, Inc. “They’ve already been identified as one of the elite players in the country, so let’s deal with things responsibly so that you come back healthy and you’re not rushing back. So, their return to play is very important also.
“I’ve always approached any management of an athlete’s injury, the treatment, my recommendation to them and the return to play like how I would want my children to be treated, no matter their age — whether they’re 14, 16 or whether they’re 34,” added Lacerte, who has five children.
Lacerte is trying to help educate the USA Men’s Junior National Team members and help them create healthy habits they can use in the short and long term. He strives to leave a meaningful impact on the athletes in the program as well as their parents.
“The three pillars of the program, basketball, health and wellness and life skills, it can be very impactful for these young players as they begin to make choices of what they want to do in their career,” Lacerte said. “Hopefully, after they’ve gone through this experience in the USA Junior National Team program, they’re not only a better basketball player, they’re a more well-rounded individual and hopefully a healthier individual when they take the next step with whatever they might do in their basketball career.”