I'm beginning to settle into my role as club therapist with the rugby team, although it's still proving to be a quite a steep learning curve. For many of the players it's their first experience of having someone around to help in this way and because I'm not a physio or even a sports therapist, just a humble sports massage therapist, there's much for me to learn and limits to my knowledge. I'm very grateful for the time I spent as a student at both Thurrock RFC and working at the daily Telegraph. Those two adventures helped build both skills and confidence.
So what are some of the things I've learnt? (both serious and funny).
Well, there's the simple fact that you can never have enough tape when it comes to looking after a rugby team. give them a roll of zinc oxide, EAB or even electrical tape and it will disappear in a flash! Some of it is for support some of it can appear more cosmetic than essential! We get through at least 4 rolls of EAB just doing the lifting blocks for the line out jumpers. Oh, and I've been experimenting with how to prolong the life of the blocks we use.
I'm guessing at a professional level they use them once and discard them because tape gets stuck to them and tears lumps off when you try to remove it. They're only 50p each, but at our level that would add £100 to the season's costs. My first solution was to wrap the blocks in cling film, which works quite well. It stops the tape sticking to the blocks and makes them reusable. I then tried wrapping them in electrical tape. This also works, but the blocks become quite stiff and less easy to shape around the leg. My next experiment is the try Z/O tape.
The next thing I've learnt is that no matter how organised your bag might be, you can never find the thing you want when you're looking for it under pressure! I've tried to make sure I know where all the things are in my pitch-side bag, but it's not that easy. Over time I'll probably find a way of sorting things in the bag so it's more obvious where to look, but one import an thing is to put stuff back in the same place. So, for example, my scissors are always in the same pocket. That is until someone takes them out to cut something and doesn't put them back where I do. When things go quite, I sometimes check through the bag to remind myself where things are. The other thing I've done is buy some ziplock bags to separate items out. For example, I have one with nasal sponges in, and one with swabs. It keeps them clean and separated. I also have one for odds and ends of tape.
As the therapist and pitch-side first aider I've learnt to carry a few other items with me too. Spare boot laces, a pen, a small torch (which I need to get next time I'm in the supermarket). I also carry a variety of sports straps for ankles and wrists. As a small club the budget for supplies isn't big, so some of the players buy their own tape. Because I get a discount, I often offer to get stuff for them and pass on my discount.
Ice is important! I've got instant ice-packs, and I've got Physicool bandages too (Physicool is a great product and worth a closer look for anyone who uses ice.) I take a cool box with me. At home matches I go to the bar for ice, but for away matches I stick a bag of ice from Tescos in. It only costs £1 and makes 5 or 6 smaller bags that can often be refrozen after the match when we get home.
Last on my list of things to take with me is a small camping stool. Most of the grounds we go to don't have a bench, so if I want to sit down at all I need something with me.
I've also learnt to filter the language and accept the ribbing that comes with the job. I'm waiting for the day I run onto the pitch and fall over. I suspect that will get one of the biggest cheers. This isn't a judgement. As anyone who knows me, you'll understand the challenge as a Christian such an environment can be, but it's great fun. The only problem is that some of the jokes are really funny but not repeatable in any context in which I usually find myself!