Team Member Spotlight: Michael Harders

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IT didn’t take Michael Harders all that long working on an oyster farm in South Australia as a teenager to be convinced his career lay elsewhere.

Fresh out of school on a gap year before beginning university studies he traveled half an hour from hometown Port Lincoln to Australia’s premier oyster growing location at Coffin Bay.

The winter months when the waters of Coffin Bay turned bitterly cold and the frigid winds belted off the Great Australian Bight only served to put the matter beyond doubt.

“That gap year was pretty interesting. It was fun and I learnt a lot,” Michael says.

Pretty swiftly I worked out I didn’t want to be an oyster farmer for the rest of my life #performbetter @pogophysio Click To Tweet

“It got very cold for about four months of the year and we were in the water a lot of the time. Pretty swiftly I worked out I didn’t want to be an oyster farmer for the rest of my life. But overall it was a good 15 months.”

Michael had given himself plenty of options for tertiary studies when he completed high school and having been a promising junior Australian rules footballer close to state level he had seen his fair share of physiotherapists – both good and not so good.

“Living in country SA you can’t escape footy and I was always into it fairly heavily as a kid. Some injuries stopped me at about 17, several broken bones, a leg, a collar bone that needed surgery because it was dislocated at the sternum.

“Those sorts of experiences gave me a taste test of what being a physio was all about.

“And not just the good parts of it, the bad as well.

“Sometimes you’d go to a physio who just sticks an ultrasound on you for an injury and do nothing more … and then you’d go to a really good one and think ‘that’s awesome, you’ve hit the nail on the head’.

“That made me realise there was a lot to it.”

When the time came to decide what path to follow at uni, Michael used a process of elimination and came out the other end with a degree in physiotherapy from the University of South Australia.

“I wanted to do something ‘sciency’. I loved learning about stuff that is science-based,” he says.

“I wanted to do something with people, not be stuck in front of a computer all day. And I wanted to do something that was not purely sitting down, something with my hands I suppose.

“So you put all those three things together and … physiotherapy is a pretty good field for that.

“And I love the exercise side of it.”

Michael’s first job was in the Adelaide CBD, just a short walk from the uni campus, at a clinic which dealt with a lot of office workers short on time and often suffering the side-effects of long hours sitting in front of computers.

“It was a good intro to physiotherapy,” the 24-year-old says.

“The practice was more focused on spinal (issues), an office workers’ type of service, shorter appointment times, more suitable to a client who wants to come and see you in their lunch break, for 15 or 20 minutes during their day.

“From a purely physiotherapy perspective it probably wasn’t what I was wanting to do.

“I got a bit stale. If I was to continue enjoying work I felt like I needed a change. It didn’t necessarily have to be interstate but I was keen to make a move.”

Michael and girlfriend Ingrid decided to take a trip to the Gold Coast – “a bit of a reconnaissance mission” more than anything – and check out of a few practices.

POGO was one practice he had become aware of through social media and decided to drop in his resume, meeting Brad Beer in the process. Coincidentally it was only a few weeks before a position opened up, and Michael was arguably already on first base in the employment process by that time. By October he had treated his first client at the Mermaid Waters practice.

In the two months since Michael has been impressed by what he has seen and is fitting in nicely to the team, with a range of skills a little different to the existing physios.

Honestly, POGO is steps above anything I've ever walked into or worked at #performbetter @pogophysio Click To Tweet

“Honestly, POGO is steps above anything I’ve ever walked into or worked at,” Michael says.

“The little things, some of them are by design, there’s a real focus on knowing names and things like that, but a lot of time is spent on culture.

“It’s not an accident that when you walk in there it feels nice. Actually building a connection with people is a focus but it’s not a façade, we (the staff) do the same to each other as well.

“You walk into somewhere like this which is trying to do new things, putting a big focus on things I’d never even thought about. It makes a big difference in everyone’s experience for the day, not just the client but also the person working there.

“Brad’s doing a lot of things right and it’s exciting to be a part of.”

The Finish Line Programs are a case in point and something Michael is excited to have at his disposal, but a mode of service delivery he is still getting accustomed to.

“I’m still getting my head around how to use it best to be perfectly honest,” he says.

“It’s not for everyone but when someone comes in who ticks the boxes – someone who has the time to come in regularly, is motivated to reach a goal, whether that be to clean the floors or run an ultra marathon, and is really determined, then it’s an awesome program.

“Everything is covered, the pressure is off the client and the onus is on the clinic and treatment staff … it works really well then.

“And you can see the rapport built with the client. It does take a specific type of person but you can see the results. It doesn’t fit absolutely everyone, but it’s not meant to.

“What it does do is take the risk of attrition out of the treatment process.”

Michael adds another string to the POGO bow with his background in and passion for 360-degree sports – not just his first love Australian football, but other sports such as soccer, netball, hockey etc – and word has it he’s building quite a Pilates following.

While he works on Saturdays he is investigating football options at local clubs and hopes to try to “get a few kicks” should the opportunity present itself.

In the meantime, he and Ingrid have found a “pearler” of a spot, nice and quiet at Miami tucked in behind North Burleigh Surf Club.

“We just love it,” Michael says.

“I can see myself here for quite a few years.”

Neale Grundy

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