While becoming a sports massage therapist may seem glamorous—think of traveling with a team! Being on the sidelines! Celebrating wins with your massage clients! —the ins and outs of sports massage therapy can be challenging. Let’s take a look at the more difficult aspects of a job in sports therapy. We’ll also review the career rewards that successful sports therapists enjoy.

Sports Massage Therapy: An Introduction
Sports massage therapists provide massage to athletes at all levels, and many different venues. Some therapists work with a team throughout the season to keep athletes in top condition. Others may contract work for certain events, such as races and tournaments. Still others may offer sports massage therapy through a private practice, catering to professional and amateur athletes alike.

Why does the prospect of providing sports massage therapy thrill so many? Because the work can entail a sidelines-view of sports events, traveling across the globe with a team, and even sharing in the glory of championship wins. For sports enthusiasts and exercise science geeks, sports massage is a wonderful field. At the same time, there are many potential challenges of a career in sports massage.

Challenges of Working in Sports Massage

  • Physical Demands. To work with athletic bodies, therapists must be strong, and they must work intelligently to minimize impact. Otherwise, they risk debilitating on-the-job injuries.
  • Long Hours on the Road. Sports massage therapists may travel with a team to events across the world. They may work twelve or fourteen-hour days during sports meets. Competition schedules may shift at the last minute, so therapists must be flexible. 
  • Financial Uncertainty. There’s no set industry rate for sports massage therapy. Especially for new therapists, establishing a strong client base can be challenging. For tips on marketing for sports massage therapy, check out our blog featuring Northwest Sports Massage.

Rewards of Being a Sports Massage Therapist
Let’s review what sports massage therapists report to the American Massage Therapy Association as rewarding aspects of their work.

  • Contribute to Athletes’ Training Plans. Optimizing an athlete’s performance through consistent, goal-based massage can be incredibly rewarding. As Cyril Willemen, sports massage therapist in Chicago puts it, “I live, talk and breathe sports massage therapy, and I am always highly motivated because I am able to positively affect my clients’ performances.”
  • Body-Aware Client Base. Athletes are often more aware of their bodies than the general public, so with good communication, therapists can more easily direct their techniques. “Locating an area of dysfunction, aiding in the relief or facilitating improvement in the area, then watching the athlete go out and perform well is uplifting,” explains Sports massage therapist Lee Stang.
  • A Sense of Teamwork. As therapists play a key role in maximizing athletes’ performance, they may work with trainers, osteopaths, physical therapists, and other medical staff. For example, as Jerry Scott, Olympic swim team massage therapist explains, “I was part of the decision process to send Michael Phelps home from World Championships in 2001 because of an injury. We, as a staff, decided it would be best if he didn’t complete, but it was up to Michael to tell the press and media.”

Our Oregon massage school is an ideal place to kick off a career in sports massage therapy. A thorough understanding of anatomy, physiology, and pathology is the foundation of any sports therapy career. East West College students study these subjects in-depth for three terms, before putting their knowledge to work in the EWC Student Clinic. Our school is a hub for massage therapists of all specialties, including sports therapy.