Helen Williams is a talented Graduate Sports Therapist who undoubtedly has bags of energy and determination. Whenever faced with challenges in her career, Helen has risen to the occasion. She has developed an entrepreneurial approach to her clinic and, like any good business owner, has continued to adapt her offering to the public through her own further training and professional development. She has also managed to raise two children along the way. Helen shared her story with us.
Tell us about your experience as an undergraduate Sport Therapy student during your time at the University of Chichester. What were your highlights?
I absolutely loved Chichester University. Coming from rural West Wales it had the perfect mix, being set in a beautiful small and interesting city but within 10 minutes you could be out in the gorgeous South Downs exploring the countryside. Being a relatively small University was fantastic; you were part of a community where everyone supported each other. I was lucky enough to get involved with the University football team and Eastbourne Town FC while I was there, which did involve a lot of travelling but it was fantastic for gaining pitch side experience.
As a result of your hard work, you now have your own Sports Therapy Clinic - What challenges have you faced throughout this journey?
Once qualified and back in West Wales I had applied for a few jobs but it soon became evident back then that not being statutorialy regulated had some disadvantages but I soon became involved with both Aberaeron and Newcastle Emlyn Rugby clubs and slowly I began to build my own private practice. Initially I offered a mobile service as it was a niche market and enabled me to offer something different to my competitors. I won't lie, it was a slow process but through hard work and working alongside fantastic people, such as Kristy Dahill who invited me to be part of her team at Aberystwyth Sports Injury Clinic, I have slowly built up a practice which I am very proud of. I now work across 3 locations across Ceredigion. I have been very fortunate and now have a busy practice working with a wide range of patients.
I have two young children (5 and 7) which meant maternity leave. With my first I took 6 months off which was a big risk due to not knowing whether I would have patients to go back to, but thankfully I was very lucky. With my second child I found a new sports therapy graduate to cover for me while I was off. This worked brilliantly initially but she finished early and forced me back to work a lot earlier than I had anticipated, but I was able to work part time and had amazing family support to help me.
You have a passion for riding; how and when did this begin?
My mother was never allowed a pony as a child so once she married, she brought her first pony and needless to say I was hooked from a young age, getting my first pony named Tiddlywinks at 6 years old. I progressed through The Pony Club and was selected to represent Wales and Borders at Tetrathlon (Shooting, swimming, riding and running). My main passion is now the sport of eventing. I travel all over competing when I can, although my daughter has now got involved as well, so I get to enjoy watching her as well.
To combine both of your passions- riding and Sports Therapy, you have recently completed your Equipilates and Rider Biomechanics Trainer Course- tell us a bit about this Course.
I joined a local Pilates class and saw how much it helped my riding. It got me thinking of how I could combine my sports therapy with rider rehabilitation. I did some research and came across Equipilates™. This course was founded by Lindsay Wilcox-Reid, involving a mix of Pilates and Rider biomechanics. I got to train with the inspirational Rachel Rafiefar for the YMCA Level 3 Pilates qualification. Her experience and knowledge was second to none. As always it was great to refresh on anatomy and movement.
There is a lot of information out there regarding running biomechanics and gait and slowly the equestrian world is conducting more research into how a rider’s biomechanics affect the horse and therefore performance. The course combined intrinsic biomechanics screening protocols, with postural analysis, both standing and on the saddled horse, to then building a programme to combine anti spasm exercises, along with strengthening and Pilates, to help achieve a more balanced rider.
How will this help you in your business?
After 12 years of private practice I was looking for something new to enhance my business; something that would make me a little different from other local therapists. I am currently able to fit 5 Pilates classes a week around my 3 days of Sports Injury work. Not only does this bring me increased revenue butvariety in my day and I get to move around a lot more than I would in a clinic environment. Day to day I do a lot of manual therapy, from massage to mobilisations and I wanted to safeguard my future if my hands found it too much (touch wood so far so good!), the Pilates aspect has certainly given my hands a break. I am also involved with my local riding club and Pony Club and look to be able to offer both half and full day clinics as well as 1-2-1 sessions where I can combine both the Sports Therapy and Equipilates™ sessions.
What does a typical day in your life as a Sports Therapist look like?
For me everyday is different which is part of what I love about my job. I work in 3 different locations across West Wales. I teach 5 Pilates classes over 4 days. I try to have Fridays off but am finding that increasingly difficult due to demand. I treat up to 10 sports therapy patients a day but I do always try and make sure I sit down for lunch!
What`s the one piece of advice you would give to final year Sport Therapy students?
To get as much work experience as you can, any opportunity you can get to watch, be involved with, and learn from any other therapist -take it.
What is on your Sports Therapist wish list at the moment? Any goals that are yet to be reached?
What I love more than anything with sports therapy is you are continuously learning and developing with new research always coming to the forefront. For 2018 I aim to complete my Advanced Equipilates and Biomechanics Trainer course and increase my knowledge in that field. I would also like to learn more about working with young people as I would like to work more with the Pony Club and young athletes.