Barta, Uzpen Keep Lynx In Championship Shape

Mark Remme
Lynx Editor/Writer

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A crucial ingredient of team success is cohesiveness—knowing that you are able to do your job because everyone within the organization is doing their job, too. Lynx athletic trainer Chuck Barta knows it. He’s experienced it during 18 years with the Minnesota Vikings before joining the Lynx in 2007.

And Barta says this 2012 Lynx team has that ingredient. It’s a trait he’s seen occasionally in his career—an example being the 1998 Minnesota Vikings squad that went 15-1 in the regular season. When a team has that family-like chemistry and trust, they have a chance to do great things together.

That extends well past the players and coaches in the Lynx organization. Barta and fellow athletic trainer Keith Uzpen work tirelessly each day, making sure they’re putting their athletes in a position to succeed on the court. When a player is injured, they oversee her recovery. When a player is healthy, they help them keep their strength.

Not just because it’s their job, but because they genuinely care. It’s their work family.

“These ladies are like my daughters,” Barta said. “They all work hard. They all know I’m going to push them, but that being said I love them all. I’m going to push them all the same because I want them to succeed and I want them to do their best.”

Barta and Uzpen as a group are crucial parts of keeping Lynx players prepared physically and able to perform on game day. The duo began working together four years ago and have both become important pieces or the organization.

Each day, they provide the means for preparing to work out and recovery afterwards, including the stretching, strength training, icing and rehabilitation.

There are seasons in which teams go relatively injury-free, like the 2011 Lynx squad, and there are seasons a little more injury prone. This year has been a test for Minnesota and its trainers, with a collection of their front court players going down with injury during the first half of the season. When the team began its month-long break in July, Jess Adair, Devereaux Peters and Rebekkah Brunson each were missing time.

Adair had knee surgery on June 22 and missed seven games prior to the break. Once she was able to begin rehabilitation, Barta and Uzpen were both there each day providing her the proper treatment game plan for recovery.

She said the duo were a big part of why she is now cleared to play and why both of her knees feel great.

“They’re just there for me as far as anything I need,” Adair said. “They’ll even come to my apartment and get me ice. As far as getting me back to practice, they’ve been easing me in slowly, working on things that I need like defensive slides, shooting….They’ve just been there for whatever I’ve needed.”

Before and after Lynx practices, Barta and Uzpen are busy at work. They’re scattered into the weight room or the training room, lifting dumbbells or knee braces. After coach Cheryl Reeve and her staff are done directing the players on the Xs and Os on the court, Barta and Uzpen take over with sled drills from baseline to baseline or giving orders on stretches and therapeutic treatments.

Barta said the goal is to help the athletes perform to the best of their abilities. When they get hurt, it’s important to guide the healing process and not make it worse. When the athlete returns to practice, they communicate with Reeve about how much activity the player can handle and if restrictions need to be applied.

The best part of the job for both Barta and Uzpen is the closeness they feel with the team. Like a family, they go through the highs and lows right alongside the players, often working with them during their most difficult challenges. When the player recovers and succeeds, it comes with satisfaction of helping that process along.

“We see each other every day, seven days a week for a few hours and sometimes almost all day,” Uzpen said. “And Chuck’s right, you see every side of every one. It’s a good experience to know everyone.”

Barta said going through those ups and downs helps put things into perspective during a long regular season. It keeps everyone working together through the highs and the lows.

Not that there’s a problem working with this Lynx group.

“The players are great to work with,” Barta said. “They’re all competitive, they’re all driven to succeed, they’re all driven to make themselves better. Not one of them is complacent in where they’re at.”

The players appreciate their dedication and their hard work, too.

"They’re part of the team,” Adair said.

Each day presents a different challenge for Barta and Uzpen, which makes them enjoy their spots on this squad even more.

“I love what I do,” Uzpen said. “It’s a lot of fun. Every day is something new, you can come in here and have a good time. It’s the greatest job in the world.”

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