Sport Work: What it takes and why I love it!
If done correctly, both sport and clinic work can be extremely rewarding. Helping people achieve their goals whether it be winning gold at an International Games to putting a shoe on pain free. Yet clinic and sport work are very different, and this is why I find working sport helps me as a therapist.
Having competed to National Level as a teenager in many Horse Riding Disciplines including North West BYRDS, I knew from qualification that I wanted to work in both sport and private clinic. For more information on my background, visit the "About" section on the website.
Upon qualification, I moved to Nottingham from Cheshire, and began working in 2 private clinics and with Paviors RFC for Tuesday training and weekend games. Whilst private clinic work brought me a plethora of challenges both sport and remedial, and I am passionate about continual development including extensive research, I attest that it was predominantly my work with Paviors RFC and physiotherapist Rachel Burr which made me the therapist I am today.
What does work in sport mean?
Working in sport requires certain types of characteristics:
- Confidence to work independently and flexible to work in a team
- Respect for your team members
- Willingness to do what it takes
- Ability to listen
- Ability to think subjectively and objectively
- Networking skills
Some examples of the lengths I've gone:
This year alone, I've spent most Tuesdays at rugby training working until 9.30pm, sometimes 10pm, but I'd be unable to do the work without the players willingness to stay later. Then we won the Double Header for Nottingham Cup and NLD Cup, and won the promotion play off to go into RFU Level 5 Midlands Premier. Hard work pays off if done collectively.
I am on call day and night to ensure athletes can continue developing their performance, this can be arranging appointments, advising via phone or message, and treating.
I ensure the teams are stocked with enough supplies each week and place orders accordingly.
AIMAG 2017 required initiative, communicating with other professionals regarding referrals, team support such as motivation and going the extra mile for others, maintaining a professional persona, getting involved in social events, and a work rota that included late nights and early mornings.
I am forever grateful for the opportunities I have been given, from working at AIMAG 2017 in Turkmenistan, to working with the newly reinstated NLD Men's Senior First Team in the competition for the Bill Beaumont's County Championship. Yet such opportunities do not come without hard work, but if you have those characteristics as listed above, such hard work will not go unnoticed. There are always people looking, including myself, for quality therapists to join their clinic, sport team and/or network.
Another skill useful to sport is taping (both stability and kinesio) with initiative as the taping must be subjective to the reason for taping. The greater the understanding for anatomy and physiology, the better the initiative and quality of taping. Also, being aware of the different purposes for stability and kinesio taping enables you to decide which type is best for the subjective situation. I suggest a CPD Taping Course, to which the SMA have currently got discount to SportTape courses. I did a SportTape course a few years back at an Expo and it was really good.
There are many ways to work in sport
Work in sport requires both mental and physical skills, from knowing how to support athletes under pressure and how to communicate during injury and rehabilitation, to applying subjective and objective manual therapy focusing on the goals of the athlete. Now I jumped into the deep end having worked my first match the weekend after I passed my BTEC Level 5 at NLSSM, but by taking this challenge head on and having the confidence and tenacity to develop, it's helped me become a therapist who loves her job and is still finding ways to improve.
As a Soft Tissue Therapist, there are many ways to get involved in sport, from team work, to individual athlete support, especially as extensive massage training is not a requirement for Physiotherapy qualifications. Understanding the specific sport is always advantageous as it provides insight and respect for the work required but it is not always necessary if you have the correct characteristics. I have never played rugby or martial arts yet I work in both areas of sport, but I know the type of therapist I want to be.
If you are interested in my sport work, feel free to follow me on social media to keep up to date: Move Well Nottingham on Facebook, and Kim_sw543 on Instagram.
Therefore, consider what your passions and interests are, what kind of person you want to be, and the various ways in which you can get there, and that applies to all aspects of life, not just the life of a therapist.
How does athlete experience help?
Having some insight into the pressures an athlete experiences having competed in a team and individually to National Level from a young age, and changing career dreams following a neck injury at 15 years old, it taught me life lessons most will never experience.
It taught me how to be resilient through the good days and bad days at competitions. It's worth mentioning that I was given Sports Psychology Training with North West BYRDS as part of the team preparation, and I still use some of those techniques today.
Horse Riding itself involves you and the horse, and the horse always comes first, so I learnt from a very young age to put others before myself, and how to care for animals.
Competing individually is rewarding, but competing in a team is inspirational. Competing in both requires balancing pressures and therefore passion and focus.
To continue rising through the levels of competition, it requires all those characteristics as listed above such as tenacity, passion and resilience. It's turning weaknesses into strengths, learning from mistakes, appreciating any luck, and willingness to do what it takes, and do so honestly and fairly. Every top athlete has come back from some kind of fall, and it's how you perceive that fall which depends on how you perceive the climb back up.
The injury taught me that I was not invincible which as a child can be difficult to hear, especially as I had dreams to work in Team GB Dressage, with aspirations to become an International Dressage Judge.
I felt so lost following the injury, especially as I was about to face my GCSE's and was in the process of deciding A-Levels. I was mistreated, looking back we should have should have fought for scans and referrals but we knew no better at the time. Provided pain killers and time off school, rest and some chiropractor treatment was the only medical support advised and taken. Through this experience, I wish no client to have the same experience, and aim to ensure all clients leave feeling better, happy that the treatment was worthwhile, confident that they have answers to their aches and pains, and understands the reasons for any referral recommendations. I turned that negative experience into a positive one.
Now I've not got as good athlete experience as some, but a good athlete understands that comparing yourself against others can be demoralizing and rather it is about comparing yourself against your own goals and ambitions. I have used my athlete experience to help me recognize the kind of therapist I want to be, and the more experience I get, the more I know where I want to go, what I want to do, and how I can do it. It is important to note that no door is ever closed as an open door can lead to opportunities, even the most unexpected doors.
What it takes to work in sport
If you prefer to be center of attention, then a career in sport is not advised unless you want to be an athlete. The focus is working independently and as a team to support an athlete/athletes in achieving their goals and ambitions. If you hesitate, second guess or you doubt yourself, it could hinder that athletes performance be it directly or indirectly, but this is not to say such characteristics are helpful. Everyone makes mistakes, everyone starts somewhere, the key is learning to accept and learn from the mistakes, and be confident and willing, because together they help resilience, and the better you can do that, the more successful and happier you will be. Stand by your integrity.
To work in sport, it requires understanding and respect for all things performance. Now elite sport teams have specific roles for performance analysts, but the greater understanding you have, the more you can compliment the team. Technology is advancing performance awareness and it is consistently developing, yet Soft Tissue Therapy is based on palpation skills which is a technology only yourself can develop. Therefore, as a Soft Tissue Therapist, you are constantly developing and advancing your palpation technology, and the better you can do this, the more you can respect and apply to support performance input and output.
I am lucky as I was taught from a young age to listen through my hands by riding horses from the age of 6 years old. I then researched for the best course and traveled to London every other weekend for the best as I decided to study with NLSSM. I was one of few on the course that did not have a science related degree or strength and conditioning qualification but I stuck at it, learning the language of anatomy and physiology, and qualified at the highest recognized level of BTEC Level 5 Sports and Remedial Soft Tissue Therapist. The awesome tutors at NLSSM, which I have remained friends with, not only developed my palpation skills, but inspired and guided me as to how to continue developing them. I qualified thirsty to learn more, and that is what a great course should do. So if you are a soft tissue therapist but qualified lower than level 5, I cannot recommend doing the BTEC Level 5 enough, if you want to be the one of the best, you have to train with the best. The difference in qualification levels is huge, from the level of understanding to techniques and understanding. In my opinion, the ultimate difference is that the BTEC Level 5 at NLSSM not only teaches you the anatomy, physiology, techniques, and assessments, it develops your initiative so you can be much more subjective. There is a reason why BTEC Level 5 is Advanced, and NLSSM have opened up more locatins since I qualified so you may not have to travel to London.
The Olympics Committee has recently shared some inspirational videos via social media showing how Olympians have had brutal falls, but have come back from those falls to win medals once again. Such perspectives are attributable to all aspects of life, not just for athletes, and it is simply that, a matter of perspective. How you perceive yourself, your career, your ambitions and your life can determine how you live life, so respect yourself, respect others, and if you do those two, you will get respect in return.
How has my sport work helped my private clinic work?
On Tuesday nights at training, I can see 10+ players in 3 hours which requires efficiency, initiative, and an advanced level of understanding regarding anatomy and physiology. Pitch Side First Aid involves great responsibility and quick thinking whilst reporting back to the coaches via radio devices. Rugby League is a much faster game than Union too with an almost constant turnover of players coming off and returning to play meaning the ability to work under pressure is paramount. Treating athletes requires understanding and respect for the pressures the various sports can have on the body, such as horse riding will have different pressures to dancing and athletics for example.
Together, work in sport helped me to quickly develop into the therapist I wanted to be, and continue to aim towards. I have to be confident, I have to be responsible, I have to be professional, I have to work quickly yet thoroughly, and I have to be organised.
"The capacity to learn is a gift, the ability to learn is a skill, the willingness to learn is a choice."
So, do you have what it takes?
If you are interested in a career in sport and live in Nottingham, feel free to get in touch and I will help guide you in the right direction.
If you are a qualified Manual Therapist and live in the East Midlands, please feel free to get in touch as I am constantly on the look out - you MUST have a first aid qualification and pitch side experience is beneficial but not a necessity.