The words resonate with me every time I hear them. I will be in a conversation with some friends, or colleagues, and discuss how I am anxious about a game I’m going to work later that day. I express that a mild level of nervousness never really wears off no matter how many games I work. Then like clockwork the words come out.
“Why are you nervous? You have no impact on the game. You are support staff, not a part of the team.”
And I promptly die a little inside.
Working with teams is my passion, and I’ve had the opportunity to work in some pretty cool contexts. Anyone who knows me, knows working sports is a huge part of my life, much to the chagrin of my loved ones. I spend my Friday and Saturday nights in cold arenas. I spend hours on uncomfortable buses. I often make minimum wage for my work, but I very much believe in my value and the value of medical and equipment staff that work in sport. I believe in what I do, and I pour a great deal of energy into it, so I’m gonna use this blog post to justify my work, and the work of my amazing colleagues who I am confident have felt the same at some point in their careers.
What people certainly need to understand is 85% of what a team therapist does is for performance, NOT rehabilitation. If I only worked on athletes who were injured, I would spend a lot of my time doing absolutely nothing. I am involved to make the athletes better at what they do, and if shit hits the fan, I can hop in and make sure an injury is dealt with properly. My work starts well before the game- often hours before the puck drop- and often ends hours after the game ends. I apply manual therapy, I help my athletes warm up properly, I act as a confidant, I tape, and I remedy whatever physical complaint my athletes have so they can be confident in their bodies and recover appropriately post game. My athletes know I am there for them for whatever issue they have, whether that’s physical or otherwise. I would even argue I help ease a certain amount of fear for the athlete- they know I have their back and if they get hurt they will be treated properly. I have a phenomenal bond with these athletes and often they do a great job of showing their appreciation of my work.
Maybe it’s the reflected glory, because I never was an elite athlete myself. Maybe it’s when a fully rehabbed athlete scores a goal, looks you straight in the eye and says, “you got the assist on that one.” Or maybe it’s the intensity of the game and knowing that in the event of an emergency, an athlete’s future is in my hands. Whatever it is, I love working in sport. And I have an impact on the game.