WNBA stars Sue Bird and Kelsey Plum spilled one of the secrets to their success: their trainer, Susan King Borchardt.
Both Bird and Plum highlighted in a recent ESPN article how King Borchardt, a former Stanford standout, has helped them with their game. King Borchardt, who played in three games with the Minnesota Lynx in 2005 before her career pivot, has worked with Bird since 2013. The Storm star was rehabbing after knee surgery, and King Borchardt had joined the Seattle Storm as a sports performance coach.
“I knew very quickly that we were lucky that she was in some ways maybe overqualified for the position,” Bird told ESPN. “Sometimes the WNBA doesn’t have the money to pay talent in certain roles. At some point, you’ve got to pick and choose things, and at times a role like the strength coach just might not have the budget.”
She also credits King Borchardt for getting her to a fifth Olympics in 2020.
“After the 2016 Olympics, I didn’t know there was going to be a 2020. After the 2016 Olympics, I was like, ‘You got me to my last Olympics, thank you so much,’” Bird said. “There’s been those moments because for me, you never know. I can without a doubt say I would not have made it to that Olympics without Susan. That’s 2016. So you fast-forward six years, it’s been a good run.”
Since joining the Storm in 2013, King Borchardt’s status has risen as she’s worked with more players and helped them along in their careers. She now has her own business, The Athlete Blueprint, that has a roster of more than 10 women’s basketball players as well as two soccer players. One of them is Bird’s fiancée, Megan Rapinoe. Other WNBA stars in the fold include Breanna Stewart, Nneka Ogwumike, Skylar Diggins-Smith and Satou Sabally.
She also served as the performance and recovery coach for USA Basketball in the lead-up to the Tokyo Olympics.
“Everyone knows her now,” Storm star Jewell Loyd said, “but she was our secret weapon for sure.”
One of the reasons for King Borchardt’s success comes in the care she shows each client. She tailors individual workouts to help athletes reach their goals.
“The way we look at it is Sue is so different from Stewie is so different from Kelsey Plum is so different from Nneka,” King Borchardt said. “Because of their history, their bodies, their age. All those things necessitate that individualization.”
Plum, who began working with King Borchardt after rupturing her Achilles in 2020, has returned to the court playing some of the best basketball of her career. She recently was named an All-Star for the first time and has been averaging 20.1 points and 5.9 assists per game as a starter for Las Vegas, one year after being named the Sixth Player of the Year.
“I remember Morgan [Valley] called me after the 2019 season and she was like, ‘You need to work with Susan,'” Plum recalled. “I knew Sue worked with her but I didn’t really know the capacity or how much it really made a difference.”
While King Borchardt’s status, like her client list, has grown, a running joke is that Bird says she shouldn’t have introduced Plum to King Borchardt until after Bird was done playing.
“She was like, ‘I’m so mad. I should’ve waited,'” Plum said. “It’s funny because it is a big advantage. I feel like for me, when I step out there, I know I’m the best conditioned athlete in this game. That matters.”