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Nov 24, 2014

NHI Students Provide Massage to the UCLA Football Team

At NHI, many of us are cheering on the UCLA Football team as they work to defeat Stanford University this Friday! Behind the scenes NHI students are providing sports massage to help the UCLA Bruins reach their full potential on the field. We have interviewed one of our graduates, John Paulsen, who is working with the athletes to get the inside scoop on what it’s like being a sports massage therapist. Keep reading to find out if sports massage would be a good fit for you!


Q: How did you become interested in sports massage?
A: I became interested in sports massage because I’ve always loved sports and I was very active as a child and throughout high school. It wasn’t until college that I considered a career path that could keep me involved in sports and working with athletes. 

Q: What makes working with athletes different from working with other clients?
A: These athletes are different from other clients because they’re very in tune with their body and they train hard. Their musculature is dense and defined and quite visible which makes it easy to locate and tends to respond positively to soft tissue manipulation. I’ve always had a vague understanding of the origin and insertion of the major muscle groups, but after the extensive anatomy, physiology, and kinesiology classes at NHI, I know exactly what muscle I’m feeling tension in and all of that muscle’s actions. This knowledge maximizes the effectiveness my bodywork.

Q: How do you build rapport with the athletes?
A: I build rapport with the athletes by talking to them how I would talk to a friend. I asked them questions like “how are you feeling today?” and I give them feedback on their answers. I tell them what they should expect for the bodywork session and ask them if that is okay and does that meet their expectation’s. I make sure that I address their specific issues first and to their satisfaction. I will check-in with them periodically during the session regarding pressure and comfortability. After the session, I like to offer a brief summary of what I felt during the bodywork and compare with them on what they felt. Those brief interaction before, during and after all help to build rapport. Working with them multiple times is also helpful.

Q: What has been your biggest takeaway working with the UCLA Football team?
A: My biggest Takeaway of working with the UCLA football team has been the confidence to know that I can work with an elite athlete and effectively make a difference in how they are feeling. It’s amazingly rewarding when the athlete gets up off of the table and shows a genuine appreciation for your work.


Q: What was the most challenging part about the experience for you?
A: The most challenging part about this experience for me has been the general size of some of these athletes. Many of them are twice my size and can handle a lot of pressure. It has definitely been a learning experience for me to give effective pressure with proper body mechanics and without hurting myself. This is an area where I can thank the NHI instructors for their dedication to making body mechanics a priority each and every day. This information will give longevity to my career as a therapist.

Q: Are there specific traits that helped you be successful while working with the team?
A: I would have to say that what helped me the most with working with the UCLA football team has been the extensive curriculum of massage modalities that NHI has taught me. I typically use almost all of the modalities that I have learned in each of my sessions. From Swedish, deep tissue and sports massage to shiatsu, MFT and Thai massage… I use it all. Each modality that I learned in the 900 hour core program is a tool and I’ve got to say that my toolbox of moves and techniques feels pretty good right now.

Q: What advice would you offer other massage therapists looking to specialize in sports massage?
A: If I had to advise another massage therapist who is just starting out and looking to specialize in sports massage, I would stress the importance of choosing the right education and training. For me, the 900 hour core program at NHI was the best choice. Not only was the education thorough and the experience enjoyable, but the closeness to all of the instructors and the sense of family that I felt had a positive affect on me and made me feel good about myself everyday. For a therapist who already has training, the Neuromuscular Therapy Program will give you the edge that you need, especially in the sports realm. This month at NHI, I will be taking advantage of the monthly NMT Sampler – the sampler classes cover great information, are good for CEUs and most importantly continue to add to my toolbox of moves and techniques, while increasing my confidence in my ability as a massage therapist and health educator.

If sports massage sounds like something you would be interested in then schedule a time to visit a campus. During your visit you will get a personal tour of our campus while learning more about our program and a career path in sports massage.