Kelly Cox, L.M.B.T., C.E.S., F.M.T. 1&2, of Durham, North Carolina, specializes in sports massage as well as Tui Na and Instrument Assisted Soft-Tissue Mobilization.
He graduated from Pacific College of Oriental Medicine in San Diego, California, and owns his business, Randori Bodywork. Cox, 35, is a medical team member of USA Diving (on which he served during the 2016 Summer Olympic Games).
When and how did you decide massage and bodywork was the right career for you?
A: I got into massage because I felt helpless watching fellow martial artists sidelined from injury. I wanted my training partners to be back on the mat as soon as possible. That is the reason I’ve
gravitated toward sport [and] therapeutic practice.
How do you incorporate RockTape and RockBlades into sessions?
A: RockTape has a great methodology emphasizing both Thomas Myers’ and Gray Cook’s work. Coupled, they offer two different yet complementing approaches to bodywork and movement. It sounds counterintuitive, but RockBlades have actually helped me soften my touch. Their neurosensory model has added another level to my work while reducing the overall pressure used. In essence, lighter pressure for equal results and better client experience. Plus, it’ll save my hands in the long run.
RockTape prolongs the session without you being present. If you’re coaching someone into a posture, you can tape accordingly. It also helps with an injury [for which] you want to provide mild support to the joint, or more commonly, promote lymph drainage and blood flow.
How does your education and experience in other areas—martial arts, psychology and animal behavior—enrich your work in massage?
A: Martial arts made learning massage easier. The development of coordination and proprioception for striking, throwing [and other movements] transfers directly to learning massage. You almost instinctively know how to align yourself to generate force.
With animals, they can’t tell you what’s right or wrong with … well, anything. If an animal is injured or sick, it attempts to hide it [so] as to not be obvious to predators; that means you have to be able to pick up on subtle cues. You could say animals trained me to pick up on subtle cues [in people].
How did you get started working with elite athletes?
A: I was known in my clinic as the “sports guy,” so when my manager was contacted about working with some local National Team members, I made the shortlist. After a trial run with a few athletes, I was cleared to start working them. Positive feedback and keeping up communication—mostly SOAP notes—with the head athletic trainer made it easy for him to invite me to my first international event.
What advice would you give therapists who would like to work with high-level athletes?
A: Identify the sport you want to work with and be specific. “Elite” is too vague, therefore “I want to work with professional hockey players” is a better tack. You may have more success with a sport you have participated in or coached. Don’t expect to start at the top, regardless of your massage experience.
Clubs are a great way to get started. Then transition to an institution—a college, university or anywhere else that produces national-level competitors. Usually at that point you’ll be on the radar for a governing body. Look into the national governing body—for example, USA Diving or USA Hockey—for any requirements they may have, and make sure you meet or exceed those.
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