“Everybody needs a coach. Every famous athlete, every famous performer has somebody who is coach — somebody who can say, ‘Is that what you really meant?’ and give them perspective. The one thing people are not really good at is seeing themselves as others see them. A coach really, really helps.” - Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google
I love this quote. In this quote, Eric Schmidt is talking about an executive or business coach. He’s a pretty successful man and he still relies on the help of an outside coach. The job of coach can take many different roles. You can be a sport specific coach like baseball, strength coach like CrossFit, or business coach like Eric references. I think there is a new breed of coaches that is very much necessary and underutilized: Physical Therapists.
Not surprising; right? The person writing this post is a Physical Therapist and he’s telling me we should view Physical Therapists as a coach. I’m a skeptical person by nature so my goal is to prove to you that I’m not an asshole out for self-promotion by the end of this.
There are a few reasons I feel the Physical Therapists fits perfectly in the role of a coach, but we have to distinguish one thing first: I am talking about Physical Therapists that have solid movement evaluation skills. I’ve pissed off some of my colleagues in the past with some bold statements so I will try to not piss anyone off here. There are many different ways to specialize as a Physical Therapist. You can work with kids, the geriatric population, neurologic disorders, sports, and a host of other areas. Not all Physical Therapists have continued their education after school to really learn about assessing and improving athletic movement. This doesn’t mean they are bad at their job. It means they have decided to continue their education in other areas.
To help you pick the right Physical Therapists/Coach, look for one that has training with at least one of two groups. The first is Gray Cook and Functional Movement Systems. This is the group that developed the Functional Movement Screen and also teaches a practitioner course called the Selective Functional Movement Assessment. I’ve been through three of these courses and I think they are great. The other group is MobilityWOD. Yes, I’m absolutely being biased here considering I teach for this group. Honestly though, if you are a CrossFit athlete in particular, the information MobilityWOD teaches is right up your alley. Look for a PT that has been exposed to both groups and they should have a strong understanding of movement assessment/correction.
Once you’ve found a competent Physical Therapist for the role of coach, you need to use them. I’m not just talking about when you’re hurt. This is a mindset I would love to see people change. You don’t wait until your engine locks up before you change your oil. Why wait until your body shuts down before you get some help? The first way to get help is to get your movement assessed. At Athletes’ Potential we use a mixture of the screens Functional Movement Systems teaches in the courses I’ve been to and movement minimum tests we teach with MobilityWOD. This tends to give us a very broad view of movement quality and quantity. Not only that, but it also allows us to see if there are any glaring side to side differences (asymmetries). Fixing these movement impairments leads to less injury and better performance. That’s two very good things.
Once you’ve been assessed, now it’s time for your Physical Therapist to either do some hands on work (dry needling, manual therapy, joint mobilizations) to address the problems and/or give you some homework. There should always be open communication between you and your Physical Therapist. They are now your movement/body maintenance coach. I typically recommend following up once very two to three months for a “check-up." No, this isn’t a turn your head to the side and cough check-up. This is looking at your movement again, seeing change, doing hands-on work if needed, and progressing what you are doing at the gym.
Look, you only have one body. Most of us take ours for granted until it breaks down on us. I’ve been there as well. I’ve had multiple injuries during my time in the Army and I didn’t start taking care of my body until I stumbled across MobilityWOD a few years ago. A Physical Therapist has a unique skill set of medical knowledge, movement assessment and hands on manual skills. One should be an integral part of your training in particular if you’re a CrossFit athlete. Our motto is "Movement is Medicine" and we really do believe that. Get your movement checked out, get a plan, and let that Physical Therapist be a coach for you.
-Dr. Danny, PT, DPT
Dr. Danny and staff's views on performance improvement, injury prevention and sometimes other random thoughts.