How to create a network with athletic trainers

I have never seen a Superbike not get serviced by mechanics after returning to the garage; if it didn’t get serviced, it’s not likely to end well for the machine once it rolls back out onto the circuit. It’s the same with athletes.

Trainers work to strengthen and condition, while soft-tissue sports therapists work to repair and restore. Together these professions can create improved performance for athletes, from the local league to the big league.

When developing a sports practice, and, importantly, your reputation in the athletic community, it is vital that you understand the value of networking. Do not overlook this.

Ultimately, when you create a network, people will be able to find you, which will lead to opportunities and partnerships—and your network will be working for you even while you are not.

Case in point: I was recently off on a backpacking trip with no cell signal. Two days later as I was hiking out of the forest, I fired up my phone, which then started pinging with voicemails, incoming texts and emails that had been building up while I was off the grid.

As I listed to my voicemails, I heard one from a trainer explaining he had heard great things about me from a mutual colleague and wanted to meet with me about potentially contracting my services.

Create a Network

How do you create a network that never rests? First, you need to have your standards and reputation in place. (See “A Higher Bar for Sports Massage: Targeted Soft-Tissue Work for Athletes,” my article in the August print issue of MASSAGE Magazine.)

Once that foundation is established, you will then research more specifically what the athletic market consists of. You will familiarize yourself with as much of it as you can, such as who makes up the clientele, therapy and rehabilitation product providers, and other professionals (non-massage therapists) who provide services to this market.

Athletic trainers and strength-and-conditioning coaches should be at the top of your list of personnel to familiarize yourself with and to collaborate with. You will save yourself time, energy and money when you get online to study up on both of these specialties.

At the top of sports totem pole is the athletic trainer, especially if you want work with a professional sports team.

The Whale, the Urchin, the Shark & the Dolphin

In my early 20, I attended a marketing lecture and learned a powerful tool that I still use. The speaker talked about the four personalities in business: whales, urchins, sharks and dolphins.

The whale is all about helping people; the urchin wants to know everything and is motivated by data and numbers; the shark wants to win; and the dolphin loves to have fun.

Having this perspective absolutely revolutionized my approach when it came to marketing.

It’s an effective tool when marketing your practice and networking in the world of trainers, because trainers all seem to have a different approach on how they navigate their program.

You will experience this tool’s effectiveness by once you can identify which trait is dominant in each person and then speak the language of that trait.

A person might be a combination of these traits; however, one trait will be dominant. Pay attention to what the trainer states are his or her goals and objectives, and after some practice you can become skilled in determining which trait is dominant.

Some trainers might be motivated by assisting their clients to perform at their peak (whale); utilizing the science of conditioning (urchin); winning world championships (shark); or driven by the prime time panache of the pro sports atmosphere (dolphin).

Get the idea? I would point out that none of these traits is greater or lesser than another.

Understand that the one common denominator all trainers share is running a program that stresses efficiency in keeping their athletes physically healthy and performing.

Your ability to contribute to that goal should be your number-one priority.

Generating Referrals

Trainers are everywhere—including at gyms, Crossfit boxes, rehabilitation centers, high schools, colleges and universities.

When I started out, I reached out to a speed-and-agility trainer and owner of a competitive track program. I asked if I could come down to a practice later that evening and shadow him and his staff while they worked with his athletes. He was open to the idea.

I arrived early and introduced myself to everyone and expressed great appreciation to the trainer for allowing me to be there. I stayed out of the way and sponged up as much information as I could.

When practice wrapped, I helped pack up the gear and walked out to the parking lot with the owner, sharing with him how huge that experience was for me.

As we conversed, I also shared information about my educational background and the focus of my practice, and offered to assist his program in any way that I could. He asked if I would mind stretching out his athletes before practice, a request I was more than happy to oblige.

Boom. A professional collaboration was born. As the weeks rolled by, through my character, ability and work ethic, I established a rapport that rewarded me with referrals to other trainers.

This all started with a very realistic request to shadow and observe. If I had flown in there at full throttle, requesting to come in and work on his athletes, it’s extremely unlikely things would have turned out as they did.

Trainers put in work to make their athletes perform better—and, rightly so, they should tread cautiously when deciding who they collaborate with, let into their program and touch their clients.

Success spawns success. As your collaborative experience grows it becomes easier to establish trust among other professionals. Without the trainer’s trust, you’re nothing more than a potential liability.

You as a soft tissue therapist provide what I believe is the X-factor in rehabilitation, injury prevention and performance enhancement. Using an advanced soft tissue approach to athletic performance, we contribute greatly to both trainers’ effectiveness and athletes’ performance.

As you reach out to trainers, be mindful of how you approach them. Some trainers might be open to bringing you in and some might not—but take comfort in knowing that what you bring to the table is vital to the overall goal, and that with diligent networking you can build a reputation and practice worthy of your skills and dedication.

About the Author

Richard Lomeli serves as a corrective therapy consultant to trainers and athletes around the world. He has worked with athletes including Super Bowl Champions, CrossFit athletes, hockey players, triathletes, MotoGP and World Superbike competitors and others. In 2015 he co-founded Function Forward Advanced Therapeutics, designing and lecturing on Soft Tissue Corrective Therapy curriculums, and developing the American Soft Tissue Corrective Therapy method, which is approved by the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork.


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