A sports massage therapist helps athletes in training recover from injury and prepare themselves for competition. Although sports massage therapy dates back to ancient China, it has recently become popular with athletes of all levels in the United States as well.
If you’re interested in becoming a sports massage therapist, however, you need to follow the proper steps and get the necessary education and training first—and that’s where this blog post comes in! Here are nine things you need to become a sports massage therapist today!
A bachelor’s degree in sports medicine or sports therapy is a common first step for aspiring massage therapists who want to work with athletes.
If you know nothing about these fields of study, that’s OK—but you’ll need to do some research and look into schools that can get you started on your coursework.
There are schools specifically dedicated to training massage therapists, but more commonly, students take coursework at larger institutions (like large state colleges).
However, there are programs available at most higher education levels. For example, Ivy Tech Community College in Indiana offers an Associate of Applied Science Degree in Athletic Training and Therapy.
Employers expect new graduates of massage therapy programs to have some form of experience. Students usually fulfill these requirements by working as student massage therapists at their school, where they’re trained in basic techniques and gain some valuable experience.
If you don’t have any previous experience with sports massage, work as a personal or general massage therapist for several months first so you can be well-versed in different techniques and acclimated to running your own business.
It’s also important that you volunteer at local athletic events—not only will it help you meet athletes who might later become clients, but it will also give you an opportunity to get up close and personal with sports equipment like jerseys, helmets, shoes and more.
3) Complete Training
Most states require you to have at least 500 hours of training before you can be licensed as a massage therapist. Find out what they expect in your state by searching for massage therapy licensure on Google. Then, search for massage schools in your area that offer courses that fit those requirements.
Go for hands-on, rather than online learning. The more practice you get massaging people and getting feedback from clients, the better off you’ll be when it comes time to work with paying customers!
4) The Right Mindset
The sports massage therapy field is highly competitive and you must have an intense passion for working with athletes of all levels. Before thinking about education and career paths, first determine if becoming a sports massage therapist is right for you.
As there are different pathways into getting your license, be honest with yourself about your interest level in working with athletic individuals.
Ask yourself: Are you willing to commit time outside of school hours? Can you handle being on your feet most days? Do you need physical activity in order to be mentally well? If so, then sports massage therapy might be for you! Once comfortable with answering these questions, it’s time for some research!
5) Training in Relaxation Techniques
This can include yoga, meditation or simply practicing techniques that relax you. Whether it’s asking your body to be completely still or repeating a positive affirmation, being able to relax at will is essential in working with clients who are tense and stressed.
A relaxed body leads to more efficient working conditions for you, as well as better results for your client. One of the best ways for therapists is to practice deep breathing exercises before starting their days so they’re already relaxed and focused on what they’re doing rather than thinking about anything else. This way, when they start working with clients, there won’t be any distractions.
6) Get Good References
One of your most important jobs as a massage therapist is making sure your clients enjoy themselves and come back for more.
If you fail at that, it doesn’t matter how good of a job you do. In fact, you could be an excellent therapist—but if people don’t like you or feel weird around you, they won’t want to return for another session.
Get references from past employers, friends, and family members so potential clients can get a better idea of what it will be like working with you.
Learn how to give each type of massage: While some massages are very similar (and there’s even some overlap between them), different techniques can provide significant benefits for certain types of body pain.
7) Network with Professionals
Networking with professionals in your industry is an excellent way to get valuable career advice and build relationships that will help you grow your business.
From learning how to interact with clients at a professional level, to getting tips on marketing strategies, networking can make or break your career. If you want to become a sports massage therapist, try taking classes at local universities or contacting respected professionals in your field for some mentorship.
Try setting up an informational interview with an established professional, then use that opportunity as an excuse to get lunch with him/her and pick their brain about what it’s like being in their shoes. They’ll likely be flattered by your interest—and more than happy answer any questions you have about their job!
8) Create a Website and Brand Yourself on Social Media
As you start a new business, it’s important to make yourself known. If no one knows you or your company exists, how can you expect anyone to hire you? Take time before your doors open and build an online presence so potential clients know who they’re dealing with.
Create an attractive website, connect with clients on social media, send out email newsletters and more. This will help increase brand awareness as well as get customers excited about what’s in store when your doors do open.
9) Consider Becoming an Instructor
There are over 100,000 massage therapists in America and almost all of them have similar educational backgrounds: A bachelor’s degree in massage therapy. If you want to stand out from your peers and potentially gain greater employment options, consider becoming an instructor.
All it takes is further education (usually a master’s degree), certification, and being able to teach effectively. The industry isn’t set up for new graduates who want entry-level jobs—it’s set up for educators.
If you don’t have enough training or experience, it can be hard to get hired as an educator even though companies need teachers desperately (and will pay big bucks) because there just aren’t enough instructors with certification out there.
It’s not just people who work out on a regular basis who can benefit from sports massage. In fact, everyone can benefit from sports massage therapy.
Whether you’re an avid runner, or someone whose job involves a lot of sitting (like me!), it’s easy to fall into poor posture habits and tense up muscles in your back, neck and shoulders—that means massages can help with stress relief and get you back on track.
If you want to become a sports massage therapist, look into online programs that offer certification in as little as six months—some are even fully online. For example, The Institute for Integrative Healthcare Studies offers an online program that trains students in everything they need to know about getting started in their new career.