7 Tips If You Want To Succeed With Pro Athletes…

Dave O’Sullivan | 19th November 2020

I got asked recently, “what’s my biggest advice to young therapists wanting to work with professional sports athletes?”…

If you’d asked me this question 4-5 years ago, you would have got a very different answer.

Here are my top 7 tips that I now know to be true…

1. Feeling is believing – you need to be able to make a difference they can feel. Whether that’s right or wrong it’s what I found to be true. That holds true for both hands-on treatment and rehab. They need to feel the difference. This helps buy-in.

2. Build your athlete up not your ego – Focus on building them up, not knocking them down – point out the good things and not necessarily all the bad things wrong with them…

They are elite athletes for a reason. They can’t be all bad or they wouldn’t be where they are now.

Never EVER make them feel reliant on a particular hands-on treatment or you.

3. Clearly understand where you are going next – Athletes smell bullsh%t a mile off. Never ever just throw shit at the wall and hope something sticks. That is a sure-fire way to them losing confidence in you as a therapist quickly.

4. Never leave them ‘loosey-goosey’ – This goes back to my previous point. Don’t ‘release’ things and leave their nervous system in no man’s land. This holds particularly true for golfers for example. Most athletes are quite body aware.

Dave Osullivan progress patient

This is where the importance of understanding the ‘WHY’ behind everything your doing and a step by step graded exposure program is non-negotiable when working with pro athletes…

The consequences of our actions can be massive sometimes…

5. Clearly understand where you are going next – Pro athletes are great at smelling bullsh%t. Never ever just throw shit at the wall and hope something sticks.

6. Don’t be afraid to do the basics extraordinary – This feeds into 2 and 3 above. It’s not about your NEXT fancy exercise it’s about helping them achieve an outcome. Be comfortable knowing you’re giving your athlete the stimulus they need without always needing to give them ‘something’ else to ‘justify’ our presence…

Some of my pro athletes are on the same movement programs for almost a year. There may be some slight alterations but fundamentals are the same.

They are fit and healthy and the programs are achieving the desired outcomes…

Never ever get sick of doing the basics extraordinary.

7. Elite athletes need a lot of the same things as non-sporting patients – Although the higher-end rehab may be different, from my experience, especially in the first few sessions, elite athletes very often need similar inputs that non-sporting patients need.

The difference is that most are great problem solvers of movement and will progress quicker.

Never ever skip steps and always earn the right to progress through the graded exposure program.

To learn more about how I’ve implemented a pro sport approach into my own private practice…

I’ve put together a video where I show you the whole thing, from initial assessment to end-stage rehab – you can check it out here

To your success!


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