Commonwealth Games Experience as a Sports Massage Therapist
Well, I don’t know where to start…
I’m now sitting down at my favourite local cafe recalling all the hustle and bustle of the last 3 weeks. Despite the fact that I’m still a bit physically exhausted for all the hard work, I’m overwhelmed from the whole experience. It was just great, amazing, fantastic, or simply just extraordinary. This was something that I had dreamt of when I pursued my career as a massage therapist. So let me please share a bit of my experience at the Athlete Village as a Sports Massage Therapist with you all!
Over a year ago when all the volunteer selection process was happening, I was actually not sure if I wanted to be involved in the Games as a volunteer therapist. Because I had no idea of what it was going to be like or what I was expecting to achieve. All of that sort of stuff made me wonder if it was worth it for me as a professional therapist to give up my time for such a long period. But at somewhere in my mind though, I also thought this was going to be once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity to be involved in a big international event which would be held in my home. This was not something that happens often. Eventually I decided to send an application but I was happy either way. A few months later, I received an email to say that I was selected to be a part of the games and given a role working at the Athlete Village as a Sports Massage Therapist. When I heard this, I thought, “I would rather be at a competition venue where I thought I could also enjoy some live action at the same time!” I wasn’t too excited at that stage to be completely honest with you.This was going to be once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity to be involved in a big international event #performbetter @pogophysio Click To Tweet
Then, all the volunteer trainings started, picked up IDs, uniforms and all the preparation was happening towards the Games, my thoughts had definitely changed! Being able to work in a polyclinic would be awesome because I could be treating all the different kinds of athletes from all over the world as opposed to any specific sports, which seemed to be much more exciting and definitely a big opportunity. I was starting to get excited, even back then.
Fast forward to my first shift which was a week before the Games officially started, I was still not sure what it was going be like. Was it going to be busy? Do teams have their own therapists? If so, then, we would be bored sitting around all day? What were the athletes expectation, etc, etc.
However, I soon realised I didn’t need to worry about those things. As soon as I’d set up my working bay and briefly introduced myself to the other team members; athletes and officials started to come to have a massage one after another. It was literally non stop! It was basically, meet an athlete, do massage, input the details in encounter system, clean the table, change towels, and then treat next athlete. On my first day, in my record, I did about 15 x 30 mins massages back-to-back with a 30 minute lunch break. By the end of my first shift, I was hooked. I thought this was awesome. Of course physically tiring but at the same time I realised that I enjoyed being there as a therapist helping athletes prepare for their events.
It was more likely to be athletes from small countries that were getting the most out of utilising our massage service as they didn’t have their own therapist travelling with them. Teams like Australia, England, Canada, New Zealand had their own therapists so we didn’t get many opportunities to treat them but a few of them also visited us when their therapists were too busy or their service was already closed for whatever reasons.
Some of you are wondering what athletes are normally doing while they are getting a massage. Most of athletes seem to be just relaxed, switched off from their sports, media, fans and everything. Some listen to their music, playing with their phones or others just fell asleep (maybe quietly checking how muscles felt like). It is important for us therapists to create a relaxing environment for them and respect anything they do during a treatment. I normally do not initiate a conversation after I ask some questions I need for a treatment but a few athletes are keen to chit-chat with me, then I’m more than happy to do so. A few hilarious comments that made me laugh were “You look like Jackie Chan” by an athlete from a tiny Caribbean nation, “Your accent sounds very Australian” by an athlete from Wales. Yes, we had just a general conversation! (I try not to talk about their sports or events much though.)
A conversation which I remember the most was with a young boxer from a small nation who told me how happy he was to have access to a sports massage service as there is no access to sports massage back in their country. How lucky we are in Australia to be able to have variety of therapies available. Some athletes from Asian countries also told me that they normally ended up with going to acupuncture or cupping as sports massage is not very common in Asia and I totally agree with that. I wonder how it would be organised in Tokyo 2020 Olympics as I’ve heard that if a therapist performs any medical treatments in Japan, he/she needs a specific license by law. We will see.
As a big sports fan myself, I finally had a chance to watch a live action later on in the Games. I went to watch some Rugby 7s action for the first time which was super fast and fun to watch. Great vibes throughout the stadium and I absolutely loved it. It is always a bit of a weird feeling to watch the athletes playing whom I have treated leading up to the match. This is also one of the rewarding moments for me to get involved in their prep and to watch them doing what they love.
Above all, in my record, I’ve done 12 shifts, 100 hours, treated approximately 130 athletes and officials in total.
I massaged athletes whose sports were:
Athletics (100m, 200m, 400m, 1500m, 3000mSC, 5000m, 10000 m, Marathon, Long Jump, Triple Jump, High Jump, Shot Put), Badminton, Basketball, Beach Volleyball, Boxing, Cycling (Road, Track), Hockey, Lawn Bowls, Para-Powerlifting, Rugby 7s, Shooting, Squash, Swimming, Triathlon, Weightlifting.
Athletes who were from:
Anguilla, Australia, Barbados, Belize, Botswana, Cameroon, Canada, Cayman Island, Cyprus, Dominica, Ghana, Grenada, Guernsey, Guyana, India, Isle of Man, Jamaica, Kenya, Lesotho, Malaysia, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, New Zealand, Nigeria, Niue, Norfolk Island, Northern Ireland, Pakistan, PNG, Rwanda, St Lucia, Samoa, Scotland, Sierra Leone, Singapore, South Africa, Sri Lanka, St Vincent and the Grenadines, The Bahamas, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Uganda, United Republic of Tanzania, Wales
This is definitely something extraordinary to do and I am considering travelling to Birmingham in 2022 to do this crazy thing again. #performbetter @pogophysio Click To Tweet
Lastly, I’ve met such a great bunch of like-minded therapists to work with. It was mind blowing to know that many of them actually came from all the different parts of Australia, or even beyond. When I realised quite a few therapists came from the UK only to do this, I couldn’t understand why but now I understand it exactly. This is definitely something extraordinary to do and I am considering travelling to Birmingham in 2022 to do this crazy thing again (if I am accepted). Well, before Birmingham, my home country Olympics in Tokyo is now definitely on my sights. Journey continues…
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