In the past few weeks I’ve been able to post Q & A I’ve had with several sports massage therapists who have their unique background and experiences. I have to thank Terrel Hale, Holley DeShaw, Kiplimo Chemirmir, Andy Miller, and Jerod Carnahan for their time and openness to my questions, which aren’t exactly easy to answer. I am so grateful for their contribution. In the coming weeks, I plan on posting more Q & A from therapists of different perspectives. Each of the contributors are very busy, and I can’t thank them enough for taking me up on this!!
You see, it all started when I was checking my Twitter feed and saw Terrel Hale’s tweets about his experience working at this year’s Nike Prefontaine Classic. I was curious what it was like at these types of races. Much of the behind the scenes work goes unrecognized except to the athlete, the coach and the athlete’s agent. So in one part, the interviews are ways to recognize the therapist’s great efforts and find out what it’s like behind the scenes from their experiences.
Flash back to June 2012, Eugene, Oregon. It’s the USA Track and Field Olympic Trials. A Father’s Day, Christmas, Birthday, Father’s Day,Christmas and Birthday present! The idea came when my friend Megan said she bought tickets for her dad and herself. It was a great idea and trip of a lifetime, I’m glad I took. I looked at the schedule of events and realized I would be gone nearly 16 hours each day, so I decided to stay in the hostel in Eugene (did you know there was a hostel in Eugene??) for $20 a night.
Day one of the Trials came and I walked the two miles or so from the hostel to Hayward Field. Being a track fan, I was excited as it was my first time attending a big track meet (not including the big meets I’ve been at coaching my high school teams), and also being able to be inside the famous Historic Hayward Field. Some of my coaching friends always talk about how the warm-up track area is often the best place to be around, so I made my way there first thing. The area was very secured and fenced off with a green cover that if looking through at just the right angles, you could see through. After searching through the fence, it was clear no athletes had arrived yet. I had made it there before most of the athletes! I guess I was a bit excited. I hung out around the fence and kept getting odd stares from security, which eventually approached me thinking I might be a terrorist of something. Athletes eventually arrived being driving by huge busses covered in Nike logos, transporting them from hotels to the warm-up track entrance. Along with the athletes were their coaches, agents, and therapists for those who had someone they arranged a credential for. Inside the warm-up area was the therapy tent area which was covered, and not much could be seen from the available angles I had. Being a massage therapist, this was a bummer to me, as I’d loved to have seen some of the work being done.
This continued for the next few days where I would arrive early, then make way to the stadium to watch the day’s events. The overall Trials experience was incredible and as I flew home, I was very motivated to become an even better therapist.
I got into therapy when I was doing speed, strength and conditioning training for athletes. Athletes began coming to me for things like muscle pulls and post physical therapy bridge type programs and likely could benefit from massage work. At this time, I was not the type of person to massage even my girlfriend at the time. I reached out to my coaching mentor Charlie Francis, who in his coaching days did a lot of therapy on his sprinters, often daily. What better person to learn from than a guy who did work with sprinters near daily?
I immediately started doing work on the athletes but had to use the floor of my facility on exercise mats, since I didn’t have a table yet. Eventually, after many agonizing days and killing my knees and back, I bought a table on Craigslist, and began “therapy Fridays” for the athletes I was training. They would do their recovery tempo runs and then get treatment for about 30 minutes no various areas that needed attention.
As I began coaching track, it was frustrating see the issues the runners were having. I nervously brought my table to a meet. I mean, no other schools had this. Was this even legal? Was I going to get in trouble? (I’m quite to worrier about things, sometimes afraid to take risks). It seemed to be ok, so I continued this, every weekend meet! Athletes in need would get treatment on weekend meets for the rest of the season. Not ideal to me, but it was the best chance where both the athlete and myself had time to do this. That year at state finals, I’m certain we were the only school with a massage table at their team tent! (and for the next 2 years as well. The streak was broken this year when the qualifiers I drove brought too many bags to fit in my car, and my Astra-Lite table had to sit at home to make room).
In the past few years in my massage practice, I’ve had the incredible opportunity to do treatments on some talented collegiate and professional athletes. Each of them inspires me to be the best there is, because they are striving for the same thing in their events. I get so excited helping athletes feel incredible after or being able to resolve their issues. It’s a huge adrenaline rush for me. Working with high level athletes who often train hours each day, it’s certain there will be work that needs to be done on them. I absolutely hate, (yes, hate!) when I can’t resolve an issue presented to me. In psychological terms, I often internalize their injuries. To cope with this, I usually go home and dig through my library of resources to see if I missed something so that next time I would be prepared for it. With each treatment and each athlete I treat, I become a better therapist, even in treatments that aren’t as successful as I would like them to be.
I spend countless hours at night reading, re-watching lectures and demonstrations, and reviewing basics as I find it’s easy to get in your routine and realize I stop doing things I used to do! I consult with my mentors as often as they will respond to my excessive questioning, while being as respectful as possible. (Can you tell I’m passionate?)
I’ve spent seven years doing therapy and have come a long way since then. I know I can be better at what I do, and I will get better! There is still a lot I don’t know, which is why I am asking the questions I have. But each day I promise myself to be the best I’m capable of with what I currently know, and put into practice what I have learned from others.
So far I hope you have enjoyed reading the interviews. If I can learn how to do audio interviews, which might be something I do if there is enough interest. Check Facebook and Twitter for updates on future interviews coming soon. I plan to get views from performance chiropractors and also from high level athletes. I really feel this is going to be exciting stuff.
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