In this blog, Kristian has asked me to write about my journey from injured school-aged athlete to becoming a UK Sports Therapist and then making the gigantic leap into Athletic Training!
I will let you know my thoughts and feelings along the way (and possibly some top tips too!).
Like a large proportion of Therapists, my first insight into the world of sports medicine came through self-injury. In 2007, I tore my ACL and had multiple surgeries which kept me from playing football for 18 months. During this long rehabilitation, I received fantastic one-to-one care from a physiotherapist and this is where my interest was first sparked. This shaped my subject choices in High School and Sixth Form, as I had a dream of becoming a Physiotherapist. After leaving High School, I went to Windsor Sixth Form in Halesowen, United Kingdom. We were extremely fortunate to have a full-time Sports Therapist on the staff, who was Kristian. For the 2 years I was at Sixth Form, I witnessed the work of a Sports Therapist in the secondary school/Sixth Form setting. Seeing Kristian working closely with athletes throughout the full range of care and in all aspects of sports medicine, is what inspired me to apply for a degree in Sports Therapy.
'Seeing Kristian work closely with athletes...is what inspired me'
In September 2012, I began my BSc Sports Therapy degree at University College Birmingham, United Kingdom. Although this course is relatively small, it taught me the foundational skills and knowledge that has got me to where I am today. Being based in the city centre of Birmingham, there were plenty of opportunities for work experience in and around the area. I was fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to work at a high level of semi-professional football with Rushall Olympic FC for 2 years whilst I finished my degree. This experience was invaluable in helping me practice and master the skills I’d been taught in the classroom, as well as gaining an insight into working with high level football players. In addition, the University has a sports injuries clinic where students were required to work in as part of one of their class modules Once a week we would have patients from the public come in and be assessed by the students, under the supervision of our Lecturer. Although this was often stressful for students, as many of them hadn’t assessed patients on their own before - it gave many of us a confidence boost when we were on the same page as our Lecturer in terms of our clinical impression and treatment plans.
Transitioning into Athletic Training
After graduating from UCB in September 2015, I worked at Dudley College with their football team for a year, as well as working at local supermarket. The lack of full-time, paid opportunities in Sports Therapy at the time quickly became demoralising and I was seeking a new challenge. I began to look at similar opportunities abroad and found Athletic Training to be the most similar to Sports Therapy. In November 2015, I applied for my Masters in Athletic Training Degree at The University of Texas at Arlington. After a couple of Skype interview’s I was accepted into the program and moved to Arlington, Texas in May 2016. Having never visited Texas before, it was quite nerve wracking going into the unknown as you can imagine. But instead of cowering at the opportunity, I tried to embrace the challenge as best as I could.
'Instead of cowering at the opportunity, I tried to embrace the challenge'
In June 2016, I started the Masters program. In many aspects it was similar to my Sports Therapy degree at UCB – with learning in-depth functional anatomy, pathophysiology, injury aetiology, orthopaedic assessment skills, first aid and therapeutic modalities in the first year. As this was an entry-level masters, I was fortunate as I already knew a large percentage of the material so most of it acted as a refresher in the first semester. As we entered into the second semester, the main differences between the Sports Therapy and Athletic Training degrees began to show. As part of one of our classes, we were required to attend a ‘clinical site’ a minimum of 3x a week. Being in a large metroplex area such as: Dallas-Fort Worth, we had over 50 clinical sites within the vicinity. The work experience sites on offer ranged from professional teams, such as FC Dallas and the Dallas Wings (Women’s NBA team), to high level Divison 1 Colleges such as TCU and SMU. I shadowed orthopaedic doctors and physical therapists in the clinic setting and experienced medical care at elite-level high schools. Coming from England, it was difficult to get my head around how serious they take sports at the high school and college-level in the US, but in Texas, American Football is a religion! High-school level Football with thousands of people attending their local games every Friday night - unbelievable!
I always get asked about the differences between Sports Therapy and Athletic Training, so here they are...
What is my job role now?
Currently I work at Hawkins High School and Middle School as a teacher and Athletic Trainer. It’s not that common in Texas for Athletic Trainer’s to have a teaching role and be the sports medicine professional. Teaching-wise, I have a high school PE class and middle school health science classes which I teach for a combined 4 hours every day. On top of that I’m responsible for the welfare of all boys and girls teams, between two different site. In total we have 13 sports, ranging from American football to softball to wrestling. Each sport has their own season which lasts approximately 3 months and they’re staggered throughout the school year - so I can never complain that I’m bored! In terms of game days, I usually cover home games only.
'Currently I work... as a teacher and Athletic Trainer'
Having never worked in education before, dealing with the reliability and accountability of high school students is challenging. It makes my job harder when I have coaches wondering why their star player isn’t ready to play on time. However, my biggest challenge has been in the classroom. Not expecting to teach, I didn't seek any teaching qualifications after I graduated, so I was learning on the job. The lesson that I deliver are from pre-made PowerPoint presentations, this, combined with my education means that I can speak from experience, however, I would always strive to offer the students more.
A typical day - if you think University was hard then think again!
6:15-7:30 – Rehab with student-athletes
7:45-12:30 – Teaching
12:30-14:00 – Lunch/Opportunity to catch up on paperwork
14:00 -15:45 – Coverage of middle school and high school PE
15:45-18:00 – After school high school and middle school team training sessions
* Three times per week we have after school games starting at 6pm and finishing anywhere between 8pm-10pm
** Saturday morning we have treatments from 9am-11am
Average work week = 70-80 hours
So, you have made it through my journey from the start to where I am today...
I will leave you with my top tips for a Student Sports Therapist/Athletic Trainer:
No doubt these points are nothing new, you just had to hear them from me!
Best wishes in your careers!