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How to Become a Major League Baseball Physical Therapist

by Savannah Smith, PT, DPT

In my recent article, I discussed important questions to ask ourselves as we begin our careers as physical therapists. I debated whether to take a less than ideal job right out of school and what to consider when looking for jobs. Check back in that article if you’re struggling with your next move!

I decided to take a job that put me closer to my dream of working as a PT with professional baseball players. Along the way, I found some simple steps to get me closer to my dream. Here’s how you can do the same.

1. Align yourself with the best baseball physical therapists

Experienced physical therapists want to help us new grad PTs succeed. Creating those contacts while you are in school, or as a new grad, will help you create your own opportunities.

Set yourself up to become the best physical therapist specialist you can be and develop relationships early.

Initially, when I received the opportunity to work with the Pittsburgh Pirates, I emailed the therapist to ask him career advice about residencies, how he broke into the baseball “brotherhood,” and what courses he recommended to make myself stand out. He was more than happy to help answer my questions, as he had been in my shoes nearly 5 years earlier.

A few months later, I followed up with him and asked if I could lend a hand during spring training. That led to a 3 month opportunity that ultimately led me to my sports therapy job now.

I will give you a warning: prepare for hard work and not so desirable hours.

Spring training is not an 8-5 job; you may pull 12-hour days, and sometimes longer. However, interacting with other professionals and building relationships is the key to success. The more experience you have, the better.

2. Network with a baseball physical therapist or two

One of my mentors in physical therapy school once told me, “It’s not what you know at first, it’s who you know. Then, to keep your job, it’s what you know.” I think in our profession this could not hold more true.

A lot of professionals are on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and other social media platforms. A simple email or message reaching out to them is the perfect first step. Tell them who you are, what your career goals are, and how you would love to meet them or learn from them.

If you want to be a sports specialist, contact any college or professional sport organization that is close to you. Introduce yourself to the staff and ask to observe them for a day. The more you can network and attend conferences with people, the more opportunities you may have in the future.

CSM or conferences within your field of practice are great ways to connect with experts in our profession. Reach out through any of the social media platforms you use and introduce yourself and say you would love to meet up if they have time.

3. Find a sports PT mentor

Though we have been in school seven long years, we still have a lot to learn. Finding a mentor will help develop your professional and clinical skills, and it is never too early to find one (or two!).

My advice would be to seek out someone in your field that you want to emulate. They know what it takes to get to where you want to be, and they will help you achieve those goals.

Many therapists now have online mentoring that give you the opportunity to talk face-to-face. It may cost you a little bit on the front end, but it is TOTALLY worth it. I am doing that now with a former therapist from a high-profile sports team, and I have learned more about my career and myself than I could have imagined.

He talks me through not only what my short and long term goals are, but also the characteristics and traits I have personally that are assets.

The good thing is, you can find a mentor anywhere. It is never too late to find one. In fact, they may be at your current job or someone you know in town that is a board certified specialist.

We are DPTs; if it’s your passion, don’t settle for less than your biggest dreams. Align yourself with those who have similar interests as you and take initiative early.

To come full circle, should you take a job out of school, knowing you won’t be there long term? The better question is: does it help you reach your goals?

Take this short quiz to find out which PT setting is right for you:

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