I Lost My Dream Job When College Sports Went Away. Now I’m Switching Careers.
Even before the pandemic, it was hard to make ends meet as a massage therapist for college athletes
After seven years as a massage therapist for the Virginia Commonwealth University Rams men’s basketball team, I received what I considered a big promotion. The coaching staff at the university’s men’s tennis team offered me a temporary contract for five days of massage therapy for their athletes. The call came in early February, and the timing couldn’t have been more perfect: I genuinely needed extra money to pay rent.
My first day with the tennis program went great. The team was friendly and appreciative, and I was excited about the prospect of treating all six players as they continued their spring season. I hoped the temporary stint with the team would turn into an annual gig, helping fulfill my career goal of working as a sports massage therapist for collegiate and professional athletes. At the very least, the extra massage therapy sessions would provide some small stability in income.
Just as everything seemed to be falling into place, the coronavirus pandemic hit, and my profession vanished into thin air. The collegiate athletic conference canceled spring sports competitions in March, meaning the tennis team no longer needed me. Just like that, I was out of work — and my rent was due in a week.
Many people consider massage therapy an exorbitant luxury, but I see it as a tool for injury prevention, rehabilitation, and recovery. A number of high-profile professional athletes are starting to incorporate massage therapy into their postgame routines — Kawhi Leonard, last year’s NBA finals MVP, said he gets a massage after every game. Sports massage therapy is an essential part of many athletes’ recovery routines, but now, with a worldwide pandemic underway, there are no more sports.
I had already learned the hard way that massage therapy is usually not a full-time job. Therapists can perform only 20 to 30 hours of massage a week because of the physical demands. Even with a limited workweek, there are few opportunities for sports massage therapists to work anywhere close…