by Mel Cash - Jan 29th, 2020
There are so many different sports massage courses available these days and they all offer the expectation that with their certificate you can become a successful therapist. This suggests that you only need a certificate to succeed but can it really be that simple? The fact is that clients don’t come to you because of the certificate on your wall. In truth they probably won’t know what it means or how reputable the awarding body is anyway. The only thing that really matters is the quality of the treatment they get. And the only way to become a successful therapist is by achieving good result by safely assessing and effectively treating a wide range of different clients. This can only come about through good quality in-depth training, and the better the training the more likely the success. It’s that simple!
I have spent the last 30 years trying to lead by example by improving standards and the quality of training in my own organisation. But without statutory legislation to regulate our profession few, if any, have followed us in this way. Instead, I believe there has actually been a general decline in the quality of sports massage training in recent years.
In some ways this reflects today’s society where people want the convenience of doing things online and they expect to get quick results. This has encouraged many schools to run shorter courses and use more online training instead of classroom sessions. This can be a lot more profitable for the school but this is at the expense of the good quality training a therapist really needs to succeed.
You cannot learn the practical hands-on skills for massage or soft tissue therapy by watching pre-recorded movie clips. You may think you are doing it the same way as shown on the screen but it is hard to spot your own mistakes. Your hands may be doing the same thing but what about the rest of your body? Even if you do manage to copy the movie clip exactly this won’t be right either. Not only do therapists each have our own unique strengths and weaknesses but no two clients are ever the same either. So there will never be one single best way to perform any technique and no set routine will ever be exactly right for an individual client. The demonstration you see on the screen might only best suit that tutor and it may not be right for you.
The only good way to learn these skills is in a proper traditional classroom environment where you can practice with fellow students and have experienced tutors observe and guide you. Good tutors will help individual students develop their own style which suits them best and it has to be wrong for everyone to follow a single example.
I can understand why people are tempted to find a shorter, more intensive course because they want to start working with it as soon as possible. But unfortunately it really does have to take a lot of time and practice to develop a good quality of touch, tactile sensitivity and hands-on skills. Ideally, students should learn techniques in the classroom and then go away to practice them on friends and family so they can consolidate these skills in a real life setting. These will then become a strong foundation for more advanced techniques to be learned at the next classroom session. It also means they can discover for themselves the limitations of some of the basic techniques and so the more advanced techniques they learn later will give them real answers to real problems.
It also requires a lot of theoretical knowledge to become a good effective therapist and the more you understand about how the human body functions and dysfunctions the more likely you will be to succeed. Unfortunately, we have not yet evolved with a USB socket in our head so we can’t simply download the information we need. Instead we still have to do it through traditional study methods which take a considerable time to do properly. These are the reasons why it normally takes our students at least a year to complete their Level 5 Soft Tissue Therapy training with us and it is why so many of them become so successful. I am convinced that any course that takes less than six months cannot be long enough to properly acquire the necessary skills and knowledge to succeed.
When I look at the different sports massage courses out there I am shocked by some of the poor examples I see. There are courses that are mostly, or even entirely, done online and there are some intensive courses that take as little as just one week with little or no underpinning academic study involved. I have seen others where the students get extensive course notes given to them and they only have to fill in some missing words and basic facts to complete the academic part of the training. All these courses will give you a certificate but I doubt that any will lead to any proper career success.
Short intensive courses with a lot of online content may be very tempting but in reality they are most likely to be a waste of time and money because they don’t provide enough skill and knowledge to enable you to succeed as a therapist. A good career needs a good investment and the cheaper easy options are a false economy because they just don’t work!