On Thursday, three days before the start of training camp, the Seattle Storm hosted an event at KeyArena to commemorate what has been an exciting start to the year.
Not only was No. 1 draft pick Breanna Stewart on hand after arriving in Seattle late Wednesday night, but the Storm officially introduced its new marquee partner in front of media and Storm 360 members. As announced last week, the franchise has entered into a multi-year partnership with Swedish Medical Center, the largest non-profit health provider in the Greater Seattle area. The deal designates Swedish as the ‘Official Medical Provider’ of the Storm and includes its branding on the team’s jerseys.
Stewart and point guard Sue Bird were sporting the new jerseys at Thursday’s event. Storm President & GM Alisha Valavanis kicked off the press conference, which also featured representatives from Swedish and WNBA President Lisa Borders.
“Today is a special day for our organization,” Valavanis said. “This moment is truly a culmination of a lot of time, energy and vision around a special partnership.
“This partnership is special in that it started with an alignment of mission, vision and values. We sat in a room, and the energy was electric as we talked about how we can do something special. It certainly starts with the world-class medical care that Swedish can provide our athletes. But the richness in this partnership is around the community, to know that we’re going to do things in the Seattle community to make a difference.”
Valavanis reiterated that this is the largest collaborative agreement in the Storm’s 17-year history. And as the WNBA enters its historic 20th season, the partnership with Swedish demonstrates the league’s growth over recent years.
“I want to congratulate the Storm, but I also want to congratulate Swedish,” Borders said. “It’s incredible when I think about patient safety, quality of care and wanting every individual they serve to achieve their highest and greatest well-being. We look forward to making [Swedish] proud this season.”
Founded in 1910, Swedish now has five hospital campuses and more than 100 primary care and specialty clinics in the Greater Puget Sound area. In addition to providing the Storm players with medical care, Swedish will work with the franchise to promote women’s health and hold numerous events in the community focused on wellness education. Swedish agreed to host one session of the Storm Academy per year, while Garfield Community Center will host numerous skill sessions and player appearances.
Throughout the season, Storm players will be stopping by Swedish hospitals and visiting with the patients.
“I must say it’s amazing to see the Swedish logo front and center on the new Storm jersey,” said Tony Armada, Swedish Chief Executive Officer. “Our team could not be more proud of what this means. It is really meaningful for a lot of different reasons. As we met, our two organizations shared values, which included promoting good health, active lifestyles and inspiring our communities to achieve their maximum potential. …The sky is the limit as far as our attitude and what we plan to do together.”
As far as on-court impact, members of the Storm believe this partnership will be vital to their success.
Head coach Jenny Boucek, for one, remembers having her playing career cut short by a severe back injury in 1998. Boucek also comes from a family of doctors and scientists – Her father was a pediatric cardiologist at Seattle Children’s hospital. She’s thrilled that Swedish will be devoted to helping the Storm advance the science behind women’s basketball.
“One of the things that I’ve dedicated a lot of my passion to is studying what separates the best of the best in this league,” Boucek said. “And a big determinant in the success of players and teams is their health. We can’t wait to brainstorm, figure out ways to prevent injuries and just maximize their physical and mental abilities.”
The partnership with Swedish means Seattle has a new set of team doctors this year: Dr. Adam Pourcho and Dr. Jeff Cary, formerly of the Storm and SuperSonics. The team doctors will be in charge of preseason physicals, preventative care throughout the season and injury rehab. As of late, Swedish has taken a new approach with athletes: Focus on proactive treatment and preventing injuries rather than waiting to deal with the injuries when they arrive.
That surely comes as great news to Storm players, and as Bird pointed out with a bit of humor, it’s especially exciting for the seasoned veterans.
“Now that I am a veteran player, I’ve learned the hard way that you really need to take care of yourself,” she said. “That’s definitely something that I like to express to the younger players. …There’s so much that goes into this equation, but the most important thing is taking care of yourself. I think with this partnership, we’re going to get that care. And that’s huge.”