WHY BECOME INVALUABLE?
Do you want to become an invaluable, and more importantly irreplaceable, member of your sporting teams organisation? As a sports physiotherapist, sports or athletic trainer, or even simply “team strapper” I would assume that your answer is a resounding yes. There are a few reasons why you should be quietly nodding your head at this statement (NB: if in the company of others please do not nod too emphatically).
If you are like the majority of sports physiotherapists or sports trainers in the world you do not work for a team with an endless flow of cash. You will likely work with a local sporting team, be it football, rugby, hockey etc etc, that are funded by local sponsorships and businesses. This often means that money is tight…very tight. And when the team’s treasurer is looking at the books who will stop being paid first – the first grade athletes – or the (generally already underpaid) sports physiotherapist? If you are at a team without many issues (well done), becoming an invaluable member of the team will give you a basis to re-negotiate your contract for the following season.
Follow these tips to make yourself an invaluable team member, safeguard your position or even earn more money next season.
1. HIGHLIGHT YOUR EXPERTISE
This may seem bleedingly obvious but it is also bleedingly easy. As a sports physiotherapist you have immense amounts of expertise and knowledge in the area of sports injury management. Just make sure others know you have it! Clearly I don’t mean you should walk around stating how smart you are and how much you know. You should just be sure that in discussion with athletes about injury prevention, assessment or rehabilitation you identify that this is something you know plenty about.
For example: if an athlete is asking you to tape their “high” or AITFL ankle sprain, your reply should not just be “Um, yeah, I uh, can tape ankles real good”. You should say “No worries, I generally do a special taping for these injuries (begin taping). These injuries occur by …. They are common when…. Be sure to prevent a recurrence by …. (finish taping). Good luck today.” By the time you have finished taping you have shown your expertise in the area of the athlete’s injury, cemented their supreme confidence in you, and done it without gloating.
I feel that this is particularly pertinent in teams who also having specified “strappers”. These self-professed taping experts, I’m thinking “Bob the Strapper” who also makes his own special massage oils, are cheaper to pay than you, and without a bit of PR on your part may take your position at the club. Rightfully or not.
2. ACTIVELY SEEK (OR TAKE) ROLES AND RESPONSIBILITIES
This is a staple of becoming a valuable asset to any organisation, be it sporting team or large-scale corporation. An idle employee is an unemployedee (does that work?). The more roles you undertake as a part of the sporting team the harder it would be to replace you, simple as that. Let me give you an example as it relates to the realm of sports physiotherapy.
On game day for the rugby league team that I am the sports physiotherapist for I have a number of roles, some are assumed whilst others are acquired. I arrive before the game and commence with the usual tapings, both preventative and rehabilitative. Then I generally move onto “rubs”, a broad term which encompasses massage techniques and other manual therapies. This, and injury assessment and management throughout and after the game are the “assumed” roles of the sports physiotherapist at the club.
As our club has a “trainer” who implements the warm-up drills I need not be involved in the warm-up. At this point I could probably sit and watch other games whilst enjoying a steak sandwich. However, I have “acquired” roles in the warm-up including active involvement in certain drills, providing appropriate medications to players (prescribed by their medical professionals), undertaking PNF stretches, and being a general problem solver to the athletes.
3. ENSURE HIGH LEVELS OF COMMUNICATION AND VISIBILITY
This is exceptionally easy, but also exceptionally effective. Nobody likes Chinese Whispers so open and regular communication is important. This does not mean ringing/talking to all team members, strappers, managers, coaches etc, just those who you have something “intelligent” to say.
For example: I am in regular communication with the coaching staff providing injury diagnostic, prognostic and management information about the team’s athletes. Not only does this display your “expertise” to key members of the team (see No. 1) it improves their decision-making and efficiency, information transfer accuracy and inevitably increases your “value” to the team. Put yourself on the “radar” in the best possible way.
4. MAKE IMPORTANT CONNECTIONS WITHIN THE TEAM
Whilst I hate the term “networking” for the cheesy and suit-wearing connotations that it has, creating connections and networking with the important people within the organisation will make you invaluable. For sports physiotherapists this is a conceptually challenging thing to do. Whilst I’m sure that business degree graduates attended lectures on “How to meet, schmooze, and impress other suits like you!”, lectures on this theme were noticeably absent from my physiotherapy degree. However, as physiotherapists we have learnt excellent people and communication skills that are an asset in “networking”.
Never waste an introduction. Anytime you are introduced to somebody in the organisation, look them in the eye, shake their hand and say “Please to meet you, I’m X, the highly trained professional who you keeps our athletes on the field (or the physiotherapist will do).How are you involved with the club?”. This will allow you to quickly identify those who are important within the club and therefore who to have the longer conversations with. When the big guys like you, you are golden.
5. KNOW YOUR ATHLETES INSIDE OUT
This is (probably) the most important tip to make you an invaluable member of any sports team, and could be a post all by itself . After all, the athletes are the ones who you deal with. They are the ones you need to assess, diagnose, treat and rehabilitate. Knowing your athletes intimately (and I don’t mean creating another sports scandal) will make you an irreplaceable team member.
In my teams I like to memorise (or write down if you prefer) an athlete’s injury history, specific warm up routine and other information relating to pre-game ritual. For example: I like to know that Player X will have left ankle, right thumb and AC joint taped, have his lower back massaged with firm pressure, have PNF hamstring stretches following the warm-up jog, and then have Vics Vaporub on his upper back and hand grip spray 5 minutes prior to running on the field.
Now he could easily ask for all those things during the course of match preparation. But the fact that I know my athletes inside and out makes me irreplaceable.
COMMENT ON THIS POST
Do you have any other things that make you an invaluable member of the team?
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