Where Do You Work? Making It in Sports Massage

Steve Jurch is a massage therapist who has worked with some of the best athletes in the world. Read Steve's story and learn about the skills and background required to make it in sports massage.  

Massage therapist and athletic trainer Steve Jurch on-site at an athletic event.

What first attracted you to massage therapy? And more specifically, why sports massage?

I was studying exercise science at Florida State, but wasn't exactly sure what I wanted to do. Then, while home for a visit, I was watching my cousin compete in a triathalon and saw a tent of massage therapists working on the athletes. That's when I knew I wanted to work with athletes in some capacity. So,  I graduated from  Florida State and went to massage school and specialized in sports massage. To this day, that decision has brought me more experiences and opportunites than I could have hoped for.

What about the path to your current position?

After massage school, I pursued education in sports medicine and became an athletic trainer. My athletic training experience really motivated me to share my massage therapy experience with other sports medicine professionals, particularly because my soft tissue skills seemed a natural fit in this environment. This experience led to an internship with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

I continued my education in sports medicine, eventually becoming Program Director for Trident Technical College in Charleston, South Carolina, while also maintaining a private practice. When the opportunity arose, I applied to become the Director of Massage Therapy for the Women's Tennis Association, where I had the opportunity to not only treat the best tennis players in the world but also manage therapists in a professional sport setting. Recently, I became the Director of Health and Human Services at the Community College of Baltimore County.

Your current work setting?

The Community College of Baltimore County is the largest provider of health care education in the state. I oversee 20 programs in various allied health fields, ranging from Nursing Assistant to Surgical Technology. We work with community organizations, nonprofits and other entities to enhance opportunites for the underserved populations to get trained in a health care field. 

What do you enjoy most? 

There's nothing better than seeing education change someone's life. One of things I enjoyed most about my time as a massage educator is the look on a student's face when they realized they  could turn their lives around, change careers, or finally get to do something they love. My current position allows me to see that on a much larger scale, while at the same time creating new educational programs to meet the changing needs of the health care industry.

The challenges?

I would say my biggest challenge is matching what the college can offer to the needs of the community and health care industry. Getting multiple, large organizations to get on the same page is a lot easier said than done. 

Advice for massage therapists who want to work in sports massage? 

While this continues to be an area for growth, be prepared for rejection. A big challenge we have to overcome is the lack of understanding by other health care practitioners about what we do and how we can help. In this regard, you need to be an educator as well as a massage thearpist. Be persistent in your approach and diligent in projecting a competent, credible and professional image. 

Because there are areas that are not taught as part of our initial massage education, massage therapists must seek out continuing education. Take courses from experienced and trusted  providers, like AMTA for example, and look for educators with relevant experience in the particular modality.

Finally, experience with athletes is a huge positive when breaking into the field. Look to gain experience in a wide variety of settings. Work for one-day events, like road races and triathalons, but don't stop there. Look for experiences that are unique and with reputable organizations, and pick things that are going to give you long-term opportunities, such as working with teams and long-season sports. Additionally, try to get experience with a variety of injuries and conditions by shadowing or volunteering at a physical therapy clinic or in an athletic training room.

How has AMTA impacted your career?

AMTA has been an invaluable asset to me. I have been a member since I was in school and have always felt the association is a strong advocate for the massage therapy profession. The high-quality continuing education, information and resources available through AMTA directly contribute to the success of both massage therapists and the profession of massage therapy. I am a member of several professional organizations, and I can unequivocally say that AMTA is one of the best.

New! AMTA/NCBTMB Sports Massage Specialty Certificate Program

Gain a solid foundational overview on the science of sports massage and settings through online classes and a workshop featuring techniques. Earn the full sports massage certificate or take individual courses to help reach your career goals.

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"AMTA has been a tremendous resource over the years."

Jenn S., AMTA member since 1994