Connecting with your local sports medicine professionals – doctors, physical therapists, chiropractors, massage therapists, and the like – is no easy bridge to cross as a coach. Or so it seems. If you understand the principles of communication, listening, and relationship building, you can create a team that can help your athletes get back in the game quicker, build your practice, and make you look like the smartest coach in town.
Here’s the thing: no one coach is an island. You won’t be able to “correct” every athlete who steps into your gym with a jiggy warm-up exercise and Thera-Gun. What’s more, if you send an athlete to another sports med professional, you get only 50% of the credit if the referral source does their job well, and 100% of the blame if your referral source doesn’t help your athlete.
So how do you get connected to quality medical providers?
A tuned-in coach can leverage their skills to connect with quality sports med professionals by conveying genuine interest in the other person, offering something of value, and creating a reciprocal relationship built on a strong foundation of trust and transparency.
As a physical therapist and S&C coach, I decided to burn the ships and spend the last 4 years building a practice out of my Garage Gym of Dreams that now employs 2 physical therapists, in addition to myself and an office manager, to do the goat roping required to manage 3 physical therapists’ schedules. I’m not independently wealthy but I’ve been able to build my practice on word of mouth and leveraging my connections to grow a diverse network of providers and partners.
The principles below have been battle-tested, broken, and refined. There’s no magic; you’ve got to be a real person, just tweaked up a little bit (like maybe to “11” for you coaches who live in the gym) and show some genuine interest in growing your network to help your athletes empower their performance and navigate an often user-hostile medical system.
Here’s the foundation.
FIND YOUR TRIBE
This doesn’t have to be every sports medicine provider in your city. And this isn’t about you marketing for a new client. This is about finding people that can help support your athletes. I recommend looking up your local orthopedic doctors, massage therapists, functional medicine providers, physical therapists, chiropractors, dieticians, and gym owners.
Doing this exercise will help you start creating your sports medicine Dream Team. Do some research, look up their websites, social media profiles, and reviews. It should be obvious who is (and isn’t) a good fit for your athletes.
Once you have that list, start reaching out. It really doesn’t matter how you do it: social media, email, phone call. Just realize that if they’re a quality provider you’re probably not going to get in touch with them on your first attempt. Keep fighting the good fight and create a follow-up system to check back in regularly with people you want to connect with.
If you’re connecting with a gym owner, that could be leading with a complimentary session to introduce them to your method of training.
If you’re connecting with a sports med doc or physio, this could be setting up a time to talk with them about the type of patients they work with. Doctors are some of the most difficult providers to connect with, so you may be better served by connecting with their physician’s assistant or office manager.
One of the most effective ways to get in front of someone is to make an appointment. I’ve done this with massage therapists, chiropractors, gym owners, and doctors I identified for my Dream Team. Paying for their services shows you value their time and expertise. Yes, you’ve got to spend some money, but if you’re serious about getting better connected, this is a great opportunity to lay the foundation for a long-lasting relationship.
LEAD WITH VALUE
Once you get in front of them, don’t screw it up. What I mean is, everyone is inherently selfish. No one cares how cool, smart, or up to date you are, nor do they want to hear about the latest and greatest training methods if they get the vibe that you don’t actually care about them and what they’re doing. You need to ask more questions and do less talking. And if you want to pitch them, you better lead with something that will be additive to their business or help them become more successful.
This could look like helping them promote something in their business, or sending the right people you know their way without the expectation of a referral back to you, or sending them some relevant information on topics that they’re interested in. Whatever route you decide to take, decide on a clear path for future action.
An example of this in my own practice is with a primary care doc that we work with in the Kansas City area. After doing a little snooping around on his Instagram feed, I sent him a direct message and finally got in touch with his office manager.
What did I say? Simple. “It looks like you guys have a really unique practice and I’d love to learn more about what you do as I see a lot of people who might be a good fit for your services.”
What do we have there? Interest in their business. And something of value.
After meeting up for lunch and a tour of the practice, I offered our new doctor friend a complimentary session in our gym. From that point on, we’ve built a reciprocal relationship where he routinely calls us to ask about patients who might need our help, while I’ve taken the step of using him as my primary care doctor as his approach and values (time, connection, collaboration) align with mine.
Remember that part about how no coach is an island? Very rarely will one referral partner sustain your gym. You need to connect to a multitude of sports medicine pros in your area if you’re going to stand out as a coach who cares about your athletes receiving the best care inside and outside of your gym. That list you created when you envisioned your Dream Team will take shape when you repeat the process outlined in steps one and two repeatedly, with feeling, over time.
And while the lifeblood of a local business is local connections, it’s helpful from time to time to look beyond the city limits to find larger tribes that are on the same mission you are.
NEED SOME HELP?
If you’re a coach, practitioner, or parent, The Power Athlete Level One Methodology, ACL Injury Prevention Course, Warm-Up Series, and (if you’re ready to take ownership of your athlete’s training) Block One Certification will help you raise your game as a coach, connect with a group of coaches around the world who are Battling the Bullshit, and spread the Power Athlete global mission of Empowering Performance.
EDUCATION: Power Athlete Trainers Course
BLOG: How to Approach a Sport Coach about S&C, Part 1 by Tex McQuilkin
BLOG: How to Approach a Sport Coach about S&C, Part 2, by Tex McQuilkin
PODCAST: EP 465 – Refining Leadership Education w/ Brett Bartholomew
YOUTUBE: Coaching movement comes down 3 easy key components – Power Athlete Academy
Tim received his Bachelors of Arts in Exercise Science from the University of Missouri-Kansas City in 2004, and his Doctorate of Physical Therapy from Southwest Baptist University in 2010. He has worked with the Titleist Performance Institute, the IMPACT concussion group, MovNat, and The Ready State in his professional career. Currently owns and operates a performance-based physical therapy practice, Restore/Thrive, with his wife in their home garage gym in Overland Park, Kansas, and became a Power Athlete Block One Coach in September 2020.
Dr. Cummings utilizes his PT background and the Power Athlete Methodology to optimize performance, reduce injury risk, and rehab his clients and athletes through movement assessment, coaching, and individualized program design.
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Great writing Tim. Love the Dream Team concept!
Appreciate your insight and firsthand experience.
Thanks, Chris! I love being a part of this community and connecting the dots between sports medicine and S&C!