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A woman in Sport – My journey, by Emma Davis-Harrod

26 Nov 2020

A woman in Sport – My journey, by Emma Davis-Harrod

At the Lewin Clinic, we’re proud to work alongside so many women, both staff and patients and we hope to hear from many women in sport, over the coming months about their experiences.

In this blog, we hear from our resident soft tissue therapist, Emma Davis-Harrod, about her journey into the industry and what she’s learnt and seen so far.

My journey working in sport started when I was inspired by a young boy; Archie, who suffers from stage 4 high risk neuroblastoma. There was a charity football match being played near where I live and so I offered a ‘pre’ and ‘in game’ massage to the players to help get them through the game, in aid of this brave young boy. After the match I was approached by the chairman of the club, asking if I’d like to get involved with the men’s first team; offering the same services before their games for that season.

On my first day with Saffron Walden Town FC, I was a little nervous entering such a male dominated environment, but I was soon put at ease by the club physio, Stacey. To have another female to work alongside gave me a boost and she really put my mind at ease. Watching how she dealt with the players helped me to be more confident in my manner and ability.

I soon struck up some strong and positive relationships with the team and the management. Stacey decided to move on and I went on to work with Kieren, who proved to be a great role model; someone I had immediate respect for. One thing I noticed however, was that the management were keen on having a female presence in the dugout, to provide that balanced environment.

Last October, out of the blue, I received a WhatsApp message. Colin introduced himself and said that he and Gary were looking to integrate massage into their clinic and could we meet for a coffee to chat. I was soon involved, helping a client recover from ACL surgery, and it’s continued from there. I can’t compliment Colin and Gary highly enough; both are incredibly generous and patient with me – answering multiple questions I throw their way in my eagerness to learn and develop.

The atmosphere within the clinic is relaxed, but very professional, and I’ve received nothing but respect from all the staff and clients.

In January 2020, Gary came to see me in my room at the clinic, to say that a position had come up with Arsenal Women to aid recovery, and was I interested? I told him yes of course, that would be great (whilst inside my stomach was doing somersaults). Four weeks later I arrived at London Colney to meet with Rose; the Lead physiotherapist. We had lunch with the management and playing staff. After lunch, I was led to the players’ area and ready to start! The welcome I received from the players that day will live with me forever - they immediately made me feel like part of the team.

This September I had the pleasure of being involved with Socceraid, the Unicef charity football match. It was an experience of a lifetime - seeing a real mix of sexes, both in the backroom and playing staff. It was great to see so many talented women playing football - plenty of ex-Arsenal faces too!

In the past couple of years I’ve experienced such diverse environments; from pre and post-match in all-male dressing rooms, to the relaxed professional workplace at the Lewin Clinic, to the structured physio and recovery space at London Colney. SWTFC is often very compact; a group of weekend warriors playing because they love the game. The conditions are often cramped with their time and resources limited. Colney is the polar opposite; with a dedicated medical area, a players’ lounge and a gym. Time there is still limited but certainly more afforded to the players, following a strict programme in place to maximise recovery in a tight playing schedule.

Whilst all are quite different, there are also many similarities. The common driving factor that I see in all these places is the commitment and desire of the medical teams to help an individual recover as quickly as possible…

My early pre-conception that it would be a male-dominated world has been somewhat torn apart. I’ve found that there are many women in all positions at all levels of the football world, from the very elite in the WSL and Premier League, down to grassroots level – just last weekend my son played football against a female-coached team!

Being a female therapist, it may be considered that I don’t have the strength and stamina to successfully deliver a ‘deep’ massage. However, my time with SWTFC has given me the confidence to accept this and many other challenges head on. The recurring bookings are certainly a testament to my skill set and strength.

In both the changing room and pitch side, I’ve always felt part of the team. I never felt that my gender was an issue and players tend to know when to draw the line with banter. Especially since I have them at my mercy on the massage couch!

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