To complement the MASSAGE Magazine article, “Expert Advice,” by Michael McGillicuddy, in the October 2010 issue. Article summary: “What is sports massage? Sports massage is the application of massage techniques to achieve a specific goal, performed primarily at an athletic or sporting event, or a sports-massage-specific massage clinic, rather than at a spa or general massage clinic. The goal of a sports-massage session is determined by the physiological response in the tissue you are intending to create in the athlete’s body.

by Pete Pfannerstill

The presence of a sports-massage team can often be a last-minute thought for an event director who is busy obtaining permits, dealing with traffic concerns and road closures, securing building and venue issues, not to mention handling athlete registration. What can result is a poorly organized and understaffed team of therapists.

For this to not be an issue for you and your sports-massage team, be proactive and contact the event director as early as six months before the event. This will allow you to get the event on your schedule and will give you time to organize your team members and event equipment.

1. A signed contract. Number one on your things-to-do list is to obtain a signed contract with the event director. The contract should outline everything you need the event director to provide to help make the event a success.

Consider the following items in negotiating the contract:

  • In order for you to be properly staffed, the event director should give you an accurate estimate of how many athletes are expected. Too many athletes for too few therapists makes for angry athletes, while too many therapists for too few athletes makes for unhappy therapists.
  • Know the duration of your event, so your people can plan their schedule after the event.
  • Know the exact location and provide directions for your team members. Often, roads may be closed or traffic patterns changed in preparation for the event. In addition, nearby parking and/or equipment drop off keeps your team members from having to carry their gear long distances.
  • Will your therapists have to bring their own food and beverage or can the event provide this?
  • Can the event director promote your team’s participation in event brochures? If so, athletes will be looking for your team once they are finished competing.

2. Team compensation. The contract also allows you to dictate what payment arrangements are required. The event director may choose to pay the team with event proceeds. In this case, your massage services will be “compliments of the event.” You can prepare signage to that effect, so athletes do not get the idea that your event massage is free and that you are being compensated.

If the event director does not have room in the event budget, typically he or she will allow you to charge athletes directly. In this case, your signage should clearly indicate your price and methods of payment (cash, check or charge) and that the athletes will be responsible for paying for your services.

Be sure to include an exclusivity clause in the contract to ensure yours will be the only sports-massage team on-site. This can be particularly frustrating if another team is on-site, charging less than you or charging nothing at all.

3. Team equipment. In addition to your personal event equipment (table, linens, etc.), you may need the following list of team event equipment: intake forms, clipboards, pens, front desk table and chairs, name tags, small hand tools, tent(s), cash box, first aid kit, signs and banners, marketing handouts, bull horn and bungee cords. Your list may contain other key items for your particular event(s).

Pete Pfannerstill, Ph.D., L.M.T., C.K.T.I., has been a sports-massage therapist since 1997. His focus at UltraSports Massage Therapy Inc. ( is in event and myofascial sports massage for soft-tissue injury rehabilitation. Pfannerstill is a continuing-education provider teaching sports massage and Kinesio Taping®. He serves as the coordinator of the UltraSports Massage Team and can be reached at