Sports Massage Therapist – Mentor, Teresa Reynolds
This mentor has overcome a difficult childhood and many adversities in her life. She grew up near Chicago and was a single mother when she was a teenager. But she finished high school and then went to junior college on a basketball scholarship where she was a two time All American and the highest scoring woman player in junior college basketball. She then went to a larger school where she wanted to play at a higher level and received a scholarship. But because of some mistakes by the school, she was declared ineligible and never played. But the school maintained her scholarship and she graduated with an Associates degree. She did not give up on her basketball dream and came to Tulsa in 2008 at the time that a WNBA team, the Shock, was purchased from Detroit. She worked hard and got down to the final cut but was not selected. So she looked for a different career path. Teresa likes to have a positive effect on people. She was athletic and health conscious and knew a lot about how athletes train and what they have to do to recover as quickly as possible from injuries. So she eventually decided to become a licensed massage therapist where she could work help people in pain recover from muscle injuries and maintain their performance. She started a two and a half year program to learn these skills but ran out of money. She worked at another job for a year and a half before she went back and finished the massage therapy program. She is now a sought after therapist with a full book of business. Theresa’s article will be an inspiration to many people as she describes how she persisted and overcame all the adversity in her life yet managed to successfully raise two children as a single mother and also build a successful career for herself.
I grew up in Aurora, Illinois just outside of Chicago. Although my mother was the one who raised me, it was primarily my grandmother who gave me wisdom. I was athletic, loved basketball and was a big fan of the Chicago Bulls and Michael Jordan. I played basketball all though high school. But it was difficult. I made a lot of bad choices at that period in my life and had two children. But with the help of my grandmother and a good coach, I graduated high school. I was then mentored by a coach named William Anderson, who helped me get into a basketball program at a junior college in Illinois. I was twice an All American and the leading scorer at the NJCAA level. My dream was to play in the WNBA. So after I finished my two years of junior college, I got a basketball scholarship to play for the University of Central Arkansas to gain more experience at a higher level. Unfortunately the school did not handle my paperwork properly. I sat out the first year and then was declared ineligible. To their credit, the school still honored my scholarship and I received an Associates Degree in Applied Sciences.
Although I hadn’t gotten to play college basketball at the level I wanted, I still had a dream of playing in the WNBA. In 2008, Tulsa purchased the Shock from Detroit and I moved to Oklahoma to try out for the team. I spent three months getting in shape before the tryouts and worked out at Gold’s Gym. They let me use their facility for free when they found out I was trying out for the city’s new WNBA team. Nolan Richardson, who was formerly the head coach at Arkansas and the University of Tulsa, was the Tulsa Shock’s first coach. There were about 300 women at the tryouts, which cost each of us $350. That group got cut down to 20 women who were divided into two teams. I made the cut and we played each other in 30 games. I made the next cut down to 10 players. But Coach Richardson only selected 3 of us and I did not make the final cut. I was going to go back to Illinois, but my daughters liked Tulsa and had made a lot of friends. They wanted to stay. So I was able to get a job as a corrections officer at a women’s prison near Tulsa where I was in charge of 140 women on my shift. I never had any incidents. But I know it was a job I did not want to do for the rest of my life. My grandmother always told me that I would do something with my hands. One day I saw an ad on television for a physical therapy program. It kept coming back to me that this could be something that I should pursue. I was a good athlete and knew a lot about nutrition and taking care of your body from my sports training. I decided to take the course. But I could not afford to finish and had to take a job as a mental health technician as treatment center called Shadow Mountain. After a year and half, I had saved enough money to go back to school, finish the massage therapy degree and get my certificate to practice.
Getting started was difficult. I tried to get my name out by going to volunteer events. I eventually teamed up with the owner of a tanning center. We did well. But I wanted to practice deep massage that was used to help athletes and people in pain and not the kind of light massage that is given in salons and spas. I was eventually able to find a position with a company called Massage Envy, which is a franchise with locations across the US.
At that location, I was able to treat people from all walks of life including professionals like dentists, doctors and lawyers and well as tradespeople like welders and plumbers. All the people have some kind of pain and want relief. I believe in taking a holistic approach to healing whenever possible before you try drugs or surgery. This means primarily doing deep massage treatments of muscles and the extremities. Because I was an athlete, learning how to help people with this kind of pain came easy to me and I have been able to help a lot of people. Here are some examples:
- I have a patient who had a condition called frozen shoulder where you cannot move your arm behind your back or elevate it to any extent. This condition is caused by tightening of muscles in your shoulders and back. After about seven months of therapy, she had regained most of her range of motion and was back playing tennis. She said I was the first person who had helped her after seeing a number of doctors and having many cortisone injections.
- I also have a twelve-year-old patient with Cerebral Palsy. She had daily seizures and her muscles feel like a piece of wood. I see her regularly and have improved her ability to walk and live a fuller life.
- I also have a number of dental hygienists and dentists who have shoulder problems because of their jobs where they are extending their arms all day as well as people who work on computers all day and get carpal tunnel syndrome.
I also treat a lot of athletes, which represent more than half of my business. There are three kinds of way a message therapist works with an athlete.
- The first is called Entra Massage. This gets the knots out and treats cramps, which improves your range of motion.
- The second is called Pre-Event Massage. This is a vigorous massage that warms up the muscles.
- The third is Post Event Massage. After completion of an event, lactic acid builds in the muscles, which causes knots, soreness and inflammation. This massage is designed to help you recover faster from this as well as any small injuries you might have had during the event.
There are several types of massages you train for in school. The first is the Swedish massage, which is what you find in most spas and salons. There are also hot stone massages that are used in spas. These are light massages that are meant to make you relaxed. What I perform on my patients is called deep tissue message. It is more therapeutic and meant to relieve pain. You can also get additional training so that you can work on cancer patients and people with fiber myalgia.
Becoming a Message Therapist
The course work takes two and a half years. In Tulsa, you can get training at the Community Care College, a non-profit, as well as a for profit school like Platt’s College. The cost of this program is fairly expensive ranging from $24,000 to $30,000.
When you get your certificate you have to decide where you want to work. Because the population is aging, there is good demand for massage therapists as an alternate form of pain relief. For this reason, message therapists are now in chiropractic offices. I think deep tissue massage therapy is the most interesting because you get a lot of satisfaction helping people relieve their pain and improve their lives.
You will work hard once you build a full book of business. I see between 5 and 8 people a day. Because the job is physically demanding, I take off Wednesdays to allow my own muscles to recover. The physical demands of the job are probably the biggest disadvantage of being a message therapist. Some people can only do the job for around fifteen years before their strength weakens while others can go longer. But like an athletes, dancer or any other job where you are using your muscles all day, you will reach a point where you will have to either lessen your hours or change professions. People who are health conscious themselves and take care of their own bodies make the best message therapists and have the longest careers.
I love the fact that as a massage therapist I can see that everyday I am helping people relieve their pain. My Grandmother always taught me that the greatest satisfaction comes from helping others and I have found out that she was right. I also get to meet a lot of interesting people everyday and have given over 10,000 messages after working as a therapist for only five years. The career has allowed me to earn a good living and be able to support my two daughters and myself. Although I know that at some point I will likely have to make a career change as I get older, I look at that as simply another challenge in my life. I have been successful because I never gave up, worked hard and persisted until I reached my goals. Whether or not you chose to become a message therapist, I hope that my life is an example of how you can succeed even if you face adversity in your life if you never give up and are persistent.
US Bureau of Labor Statistics – Massage Therapists
The median annual wage for massage therapists was $35,970 in May 2012. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $18,420, and the top 10 percent earned more than $70,140. Most massage therapists earn a combination of wages and tips.
Employment of massage therapists is projected to grow 23 percent from 2012 to 2022, much faster than the average for all occupations. Continued growth in the demand for massage services will lead to new openings for massage therapists.