From the field to the sideline
Like so many great business ideas it began at the pub.
"Mel and I had always talked about doing something at some point, so we went to the Duxton, had a few beers and we started off from there!"
For Alumnae Melisa Ye and Sarah Kelly it was the birth of their very own physiotherapy practice- SportsTec Clinic- which opened on the Kingston Foreshore in 2015.
Building their own empire
Opening a practice wasn't just about becoming the boss or making more money for Melisa, Sarah and their partner Oliver. They wanted to approach things differently.
"We wanted a bigger clinic with a fully equipped rehab gym. We also wanted to be more multidisciplinary, we currently have four physiotherapists, a psychologist, and a personal trainer, and will be looking to add a massage therapist and nutritionist in the near future.
We wanted to build a strong foundation, be well organised and do things right. We started by writing a detailed business plan, we have a good accountant and a lawyer, and this has made sure our business is well on track from the operational and administrative side of things" explained Sarah.
Climbing the stairs to their modern reception area you can feel that the girls are doing something different.
Unlike so many other allied health practices it doesn't feel clinical, its uncluttered, and each consulting room is not only fitted out with modern treatment beds and equipment but also trendy furniture and art. It feels very homely, a little hipster and the industrial theme fits in perfectly with its Kingston Foreshore surrounds.
Perhaps even more impressive than the treatment rooms is the rehabilitation gym. Walking into the gym you are immediately confronted by a giant graffiti art "STC" painted on an exposed brick wall. Complete with all new modern equipment, running track and ballet barre it would be the envy of most gyms and physiotherapists in Canberra.
The transition from just physiotherapists to first time business owners has been a new experience for the girls, but one they have thoroughly enjoyed.
"Before it was just a job, now you think about work 24/7 and its been a bit of a struggle to get used to that" explained Melisa, "but it was easier than I thought. We had great support from our family, friends and each other which really helped."
In June the girls expanded the business and hired their first contracting physiotherapist, another UC Alum and two time graduate Michaela Day.
But Michaela isn't their only continuing link back to the University of Canberra. The girls currently employ 15 undergraduate and masters physiotherapy students as sports trainers, and will soon be taking students for Work Integrated Learning placements.
"They not only really help us out, but its a great way for us to give back to the profession" explained Sarah.
From the field to the sideline
Melisa and Sarah met while studying their undergraduate degrees at UC and became friends. Melisa was an international student from Singapore who "stayed in just about every residence on campus", while Sarah was a local Canberran.
But it wasn't only study that the girls had in common, there was another thing they were both not only interested in but excelled at; football.
Having both played at high levels locally and nationally , they have been able to transfer their experience on the field to the sideline to help current players. This unique experience has helped the girls to quickly become the physiotherapy providers to a number of sporting organisations including Capital Football, Gungahlin United Football Club, Squash ACT and the Australian Paralympic Committee's Goalball teams.
For Sarah, working with teams is one of the real highlights of the job. "It's really cool, you get to go fun places, see some sites and be part of an exciting tournament."
New recruit Michaela has also transferred her equally impressive on-field resume to the clinic. Having worked with Capital Football and many local Premier League teams including Belconnen United and Tuggeranong United Michaela is a regular feature on the sidelines of Canberra's football fields.
Her highlight so far though was the opportunity to work with the Young Matildas while in camp at the AIS.
"It was an awesome opportunity to see how sports physio works at a more elite level and as part of a holistic team management approach."
Melisa began her studies at UC with a very different career goal to becoming a physiotherapist.
An ex-national football player of Singapore, Mel completed her Bachelor of Coaching Science in 2008 with dreams of becoming a professional football coach. But after deciding that Australia would be her permanent home, Mel turned her focus to becoming a physiotherapist and hasn't looked back.
Now a three time graduate of UC, Mel enjoys everything about being a physiotherapist and a business owner.
"Every day at work is never dull because we work with a diverse range of patients. They range from high performance athletes, to sedentary office workers, to old folks from aged care facilities."
Mel credits UC with opening her eyes to different physiotherapy specialisations and developing her interest in chronic pain management.
"[The Masters of Physiotherapy course] exposed me to the different types of physiotherapy specialisation I could pursue as my career progresses."
Mel's tips for keeping healthy in a workplace
If your work sees you stuck in a chair, make sure your workstation is set up ergonomically.
When using a computer make sure that you:
- Keep your feet flat on the floor
- Allow elbows to rest comfortably by your side
- Keep forearms parallel to the floor
- Position the top of your monitor at eye level
Prolonged sustained postures such as sitting can cause muscle fatigue and imbalances. This leads to our joints being improperly supported, which increases the risks of aches/pains and injury.
To prevent this make sure you:
- Take regular breaks every 20 minutes for two to three minutes (also the brain functions optimally for only 20-30 minutes each time!)
- Get up off your chair and do gentle neck/ back stretches. I promise it will feel good!
It is unsurprising that Sarah would eventually open a practice with a fellow alum and classmate from the University of Canberra. For her, the highlight of her time at UC was the comradery of the Masters of Physiotherapy cohort.
"We had a small class for the Masters, we spent a LOT of time together and our little groups within the class became really close, I miss going through it all with them."
As a former player for the ACT Academy of Sport and Canberra Eclipse (now Canberra United), Sarah has developed an interest in sports related injuries and rehabilitation and is currently mid way through a Masters in Sports Physiotherapy.
Sarah has had the opportunity to travel and work with a wide spectrum of different sports including football, futsal, roller derby and is hoping to travel to the 2016 Rio Paralympics with the Australian Goalball teams.
While seeing new sights and being part of a winning team can be exciting, there is definitely one downside "spending Canberra winter nights on the sideline!" laughs Sarah.
Sarah's tips for preventing injuries during sport
This is just a simple one that many people miss.
Pre-sport, the focus should be on dynamic stretching and functional movements that mimic your sport. After you play is when you can do your static stretches and active recovery.
The newest graduate of the three girls, Michaela completed a Bachelor of Sport Coaching and Exercise Science at UC before graduating from the Master of Physiotherapy in 2014.
While she is only new to full time physiotherapy, she is enjoying the unique challenges the job involves.
"Physio is like being a detective.
People report different symptoms for the same injury and respond differently to your interventions. It's our job to get to the root cause and find a way to fix each individual which isn't always easy."
As a player for the Young Matildas, Canberra United and Belconnen United Michaela was able to gain a unique perspective on diagnosing and treating sports injuries.
"Lucky for my patients I'm injury prone so there isn't much I haven't experienced first-hand! I treat and recognise all the injuries I've ever had much better than ones I haven't."
She jokingly provides interesting advice to any aspiring physiotherapists "Get injured lots!"
Michaela's tips for preventing ankle injuries
Almost all sports we play involve being on your feet. Foot and ankle strength, movement and balance are an essential part of participating in sport at any level.
Unfortunately because of this, ankle sprains are the single most common sporting injury seen by physiotherapists.
But by incorporating some simple strength or balance exercises during the day you can decrease your risk of injury, improve your ankle health and keep you on the field.
Some quick and easy ideas you can try are:
- While waiting in line at the supermarket- balance on one leg as long as possible, and then try the other leg
- When you're waiting for your printing- Do 10 calf raises on each foot. Balance on one leg and slowly raise your heel off the ground and slowly return it to the floor
- Every time you walk to your bedroom- Walk on either your heels or toes
- While you're brushing your teeth- Balance on one leg. To make it even more difficult try it with your eyes closed!
Putting these into practice each day will greatly improve your ankle health and decrease your risk of injury which will keep you playing your sport all season long!
Words by Daniel Murphy